Life-saving antifreeze

October 28, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

To avoid tissue injury or death, creatures that live in extremely cold environments need protection. That means some kind of antifreeze - proteins that prevent freezing of blood or other fluids.

Antifreeze proteins are most commonly associated with saltwater fish that can survive in salt water colder than 32 degrees. But other animals have them, too.

The latest is the lowly snow flea, a tiny creature found on the surface of snow. Laurie A. Graham and Peter L. Davies of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, report in Science that the flea has unique antifreeze proteins that do not resemble those found in any other known organism.

The proteins contain a lot of the amino acid glycine and were more active than the proteins found in fish, meaning they were able to provide protection at lower temperatures - more than 10 degrees below the freezing point.

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