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Platypus milk protein could ‘save lives’
Researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have discovered why platypus milk is so potent.

Protein contains unique antibacterial properties 

Australian scientists are one step closer to using platypus milk to save human lives.

In 2010, researchers discovered that platypus milk contained unique antibacterial compounds that could be used to combat superbugs. Now a team of researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have discovered why platypus milk is so potent

The research has been published in the journal, Structural Biology Communications.

“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” said lead author Dr Jane Newman. “By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

Platypuses are unique mammals in that they feed their young by secreting milk through the pores of their skin. Exposing the mother’s highly nutritious milk to the environment, however, leaves young open to the threat of bacteria.

Dr Julie Sharp from Deakin University, who worked with CSIRO on the project, said this was why researchers believed the milk contained a protein with antibacterial characteristics.

Employing CSIRO’s Collaborative Crystallisation Centre, the scientists successfully recreated the milk protein, then deciphered its structure to get a better understanding of it.

The scientists dubbed the protein the ‘Shirley Temple’ due to its ringlet-like shape. Interestingly, they discovered the protein has a novel fold in its structure, which they say will inform future drug research.

"Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general, and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the Centre," said Dr Newman.

The team are now seeking collaborators to take the potentially life-saving platypus research to the next stage.

Image (C) Laura Romin and Larry Dalton.

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Report: A third of Welsh birds are in decline

News Story 1
 A report by RSPB Cymru and partnering ornithology organisations has revealed that a third of bird species in Wales are in significant decline.

90 per cent of Wales is farmed and there is now pressure to implement new land management policies that will aid in nature restoration.

Patrick Lindley, Maritime Ornithologist for Natural Resources Wales, commented: “The problems that confront UK birds, whether they are breeding or non-breeding, are pressure and threats that confront entire ecosystems.

“Birds are a great indicator to the health of our environment. The continued population declines of birds of farmed, woodland and upland habitats suggest there are large geographic themes that are having a detrimental impact.”  

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News Shorts
British sheep meat to be exported to India in new agreement

The UK government has secured a new export deal of sheep meat to India.

In 2017, UK sheep meat exports were worth £386 million. This new agreement is predicted to increase this value by £6 million over the next five years.

With a range of meat cuts due to be exported, the deal is seen by international trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, as “another vote of confidence in our world-leading food and drink”.