Ticks are one of those arachnids that give most people the creeps. I know that I’ve shuddered when pulling them off my dogs during the spring and summer months, and they’re the last thing I want to see crawling on my leg! But these little bloodsuckers might actually be able to help humans in a unique way.
During the cold months, ticks have an “antifreeze protein” called IAFGP that protects their cells by preventing ice crystals from forming inside them. This unique property made researchers wonder if IAFGP could help prevent frostbite in mammals.
To test this theory, they worked with genetically modified mice in the laboratory. These mice produced the tick antifreeze protein, and amazingly, when testing tolerance to cold, IAFGP helped protect the mice against frostbite!
Now that IAFGP has proven to help prevent frostbite in mammalian cells, researchers are trying to figure out how to harness the power of this tick protein to help humans. Could IAFGP help improve organ transplantation by preserving donor tissues for longer periods of time? This is interesting research, and it might make you think more fondly of the next tick you see. Read more about it here.