A research team at a top university in Thailand is investigating whether blood from monitor lizards can be used to fight cancer and coronavirus.
The protected species have strong immune systems, live in polluted waters, and consume rotting meat. Scientists say they want to reveal their secrets.
Associate Professor Jitkamol Thanasak, a senior lecturer in the Veterinary Faculty of Mahidol University, leads the team studying the properties of proteins that are part of the lizard’s immune defenses.
Because of their protected species status, they have been given government permission to take blood samples from water monitors.
The researchers found that the proteins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and some bacteria.
They speculate that this effect could extend to suppressing viruses, including Covid, as well – although this is not currently known.
The next step is to confirm that the blood components inhibit certain types of cancer cells and bacteria, but do not affect healthy cells in the human body.
They expect to complete their first study of the blood from water monitors by the end of 2021 and then test whether it can also fight influenza, avian flu and Covid-19.
Professor Thanasak said his team took a minimal amount of blood from the animals, which was then released back into the wild.
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He has an ambitious vision of the benefits that creatures could bring to humanity, and says that lizard blood is “an alternative source of hope for humanity.”
The professor has a PhD in cattle management from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
His previous research included bovine medicine, milk production, and monitor lizards.
Just last month, a monitor lizard was caught on camera climbing the shelves of a supermarket in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand.
The massive reptile had climbed out of a nearby canal before crawling into the 7-11.
Employees and customers hid behind the counter while the animal climbed onto the shelves and threw several cartons of milk on the floor.
A concerned seller called the police, who arrived with reptile guides to catch the lizard and bring it back to the wild.