Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

New Antifreeze Molecule Isolated In Alaskan Beetle 108

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cold-hard-science dept.
Arvisp writes with the news of a recently discovered antifreeze molecule in an Alaskan beetle that departs from most commonly identified natural antifreeze. "'The most exciting part of this discovery is that this molecule is a whole new kind of antifreeze that may work in a different location of the cell and in a different way,' said zoophysiologist Brian Barnes, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology and one of five scientists who participated in the Alaska Upis ceramboides beetle project. Just as ice crystals form over ice cream left too long in a freezer, ice crystals in an insect or other organism can draw so much water out of the organism's cells that those cells die. Antifreeze molecules function to keep small ice crystals small or to prevent ice crystals from forming at all. They may help freeze-tolerant organisms survive by preventing freezing from penetrating into cells, a lethal condition. Other insects use these molecules to resist freezing by supercooling when they lower their body temperature below the freezing point without becoming solid."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Antifreeze Molecule Isolated In Alaskan Beetle

Comments Filter:
  • Cryogenics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday December 21, 2009 @06:50PM (#30517940)

    Could this discovery be developed to make cryogenically preserving people work? As it is right now, the cells rupture during the freezing process -- if the cells remained intact, reviving them would become possible.

    • Re:Cryogenics? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by idontgno (624372) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:00PM (#30518026) Journal

      if the cells remained intact, reviving them would become possible.

      Well, no more impossible than reviving them shortly after death, without the complications and damage (subtle or extreme) caused by freezing, or decapitating and freezing, or post-mortem whatnot.

      I think the greater obstacle is the entire "reviving them after they're dead" bit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

        I think the greater obstacle is the entire "reviving them after they're dead" bit.

        It would still have practical applications, such as for long trips through space.

        • Meh, maybe. At the rate we're going, by the time we're at the point of being able to build a cryo-ship, we'll likely be at the 'backup your mind to a computer', 'replicate a body from a digitally stored genome and a vat of chemicals' stage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lena_10326 (1100441)
          Maybe communications could be sent through a small worm hole. Small because maintaining a large worm hole for passing ships through would require vast amounts of energy, but one small enough for a tiny communications pipe would become practical sooner. That would create a faster than light communications device (ansible [wikipedia.org]) so that exploratory machines sent through space could then be controlled real time or close to real time by future generations. The machines could be sent today in hopes that by the time of
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by javelinco (652113)
        Not so much. We revive people "after they are dead" all the time - and they are significantly less healthy than a specimen frozen using cryogenics (theoretically, of course). The obstacles are that the cells must return to normal structure after being safely thawed. At that point, shocking the heart into action will return blood-flow to normal, along with helping the lungs to get started - thus getting oxygen circulating in the system and avoiding cells dying due to that cause. Once that's avoided, IF A
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by severoon (536737)

          This is an interesting supposition, but there's no evidence that anything other than a quick revival would result in life being restored. We know that thermodynamically, the body is a veritable panic of high energy formations that are just dying to degrade (literally). We know that cryogenic freezing would suspend many of these processes...but all of the critical ones?

          We've not yet begun to imagine what those processes even are, much less say with any certainty that cold temperature will suffice to prevent

          • by javelinco (652113)
            I'd have to track it down, but sure - we do know. We've revived frozen animals before - the process just doesn't work on larger mammals. It's not unexplored.
          • Re:Cryogenics? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by zacronos (937891) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:53AM (#30520540)

            This is an interesting supposition, but there's no evidence that anything other than a quick revival would result in life being restored. We know that thermodynamically, the body is a veritable panic of high energy formations that are just dying to degrade (literally). We know that cryogenic freezing would suspend many of these processes...but all of the critical ones?

            We've not yet begun to imagine what those processes even are, much less say with any certainty that cold temperature will suffice to prevent them over a sufficiently long period of time.

            Quite the opposite, actually. There is evidence [newsweek.com] that in cases of cardiac arrest (where the body is generally healthy aside from the fact that the heart has stopped), slow revival can allow for a higher success rate after longer periods without oxygen, because the cells themselves only die hours after cessation of blood flow. If you read to page 2 of that link, you see that induced hypothermia is sometimes used precisely because it does help slow the process of cell death which follows clinical death. Granted, as far as I'm aware, we don't know that cryogenic freezing would suspend all of such processes, but the state of research in this area is much farther along than you seem to think.

            • The current understanding is that the ischemia (time without circulation) by itself isn't that damaging. The real damage is called reperfusion injury. When blood flow resumes, the byproducts of anaerobic metabolism and the associated free radicals start circulating in mass and causing havoc.

              Both Alcor and Suspended Animation's perimortem cryopreservation protocols include medications believed to help reduce reperfusion injury.

              Disclaimer: I am a funded Option 2 member of the Cryonics Institute.

      • Re:Cryogenics? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:35PM (#30518738) Homepage Journal

        This opens up a really gray area in terms of medical ethics. Here:

        There are many documented cases of people being revived after prolonged (over one hour) 'death' caused by exposure to cold with few side-effects. However, and this is a BIG however- those people were "killed" by the cold; that is, they did not fall victim to leukemia and suddenly die, falling into icy water.

        So...

        The obvious(?) answer is to freeze people who are *near* death. Well, that's kind of murder/euthanasia according to the laws on the books. Without that particular issue, yeah, this would work great. But we'd have to come to accept this as preservation instead of euthanasia. We could work it until the chances of coming out of it alive were the same as surviving open-heart surgery or something comparable, but I think there would still be that mental/emotional block. Not to mention that critically-ill/hospice patients are already fragile. "Gramp is still alive but we're going to freeze him," still has a funeral feel. The person is, in effect, dying until revived when whatever criteria were met. If we don't cure cancer (for example) in our lifetime, then that *is* a funeral for the patient's family and friends.

        -b

        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          This opens up a really gray area in terms of medical ethics

          Think about the problems in the in the legal arena:

          1) Gramps is still alive.

          2) Gramps always voted Democrat.

          3) Therefore...
          4) Profit!

          Oh wait, it's already been done.

        • Because barring some economic revolution (likely only presaged by the discovery of insanely cheap inexhaustible low-impact energy source), the costs of keeping people in a state of suspended animation are going to be an agonizing issue. The space for keeping people alone could to be an issue, let alone the costs of attentive and professional maintenance techs and medical staff, and of course, refrigeration. I think at a minimum we're talking about Manhattan apartment prices and possible continual hospital s

          • by Grismar (840501)

            An extremely amusing, tongue-in-cheek short movie about the problem you are talking about is the Norwegian "Cold and Dry".

            If you have a chance to see it at some festival or perhaps find it somewhere on the net, I recommend it http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1223897/ [imdb.com].

        • by Grismar (840501)

          But we'd have to come to accept this as preservation instead of euthanasia.

          Let's start thinking about accepting it when someone actually succeeds in thawing out and reanimating a corpsicle. Sofar, I've only heard of people being turned into eerily life-like ice busts of their former selves. I'll believe it when I see it, until then I think this discussion is about as useful as discussing close encounter of the third kind protocols.

      • by telchine (719345) *

        >I think the greater obstacle is the entire "reviving them after they're dead" bit.

        I tried reviving someone before they were dead, and they got mightily annoyed with me! I recommend waiting until they are dead or unconscious before trying it out.

      • I think the greater obstacle is the entire "reviving them after they're dead" bit.

        Isn't the whole point of cryogenics was to keep the body frozen long enough to overcome that obstacle?

      • by AndersOSU (873247)

        and even once you've solved that problem, you have to overcome difficulties of having your head whacked like a baseball by the staff of the cryogenic company.

    • Re:Cryogenics? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:02PM (#30518052) Journal

      Rapid freezing of tissue should act in a similar fashion. THe problem of course is being able to freeze tissue at the rate required to form the glass-like phase of ice. I suspect that this antifreeze molecule may work in cryogenic preservation if it shows low toxicity/immune response from the host. Something to keep in mind about frozen tissue as well is the fact that even at these extremely low temperatures, chemical reactions that degrade the sample still occur so there is a limit to how long even the most sturdy cells (like cancer cells) can be stored. If the tissue is frozen for too long of a time, revival may prove to be unlikely or even impossible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        There could be serious immunological issues with a compound like this. While it comes from a beetle, structurally this antifreeze seems to have a lot of similarity with bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which happen to be the endotoxins in Gram-negative bacteria. We produce the aptly-named lipopolysaccharide-binding protein to seek out LPS and raise the alarm to initiate an inflammatory cascade. In the abstract [pnas.org] to the paper, it mentions that a thermal hysteresis effect of 3.7 degrees C was seen at a c
    • Re:Cryogenics? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 7Ghent (115876) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:06PM (#30518094) Homepage

      Cryonics does not freeze tissue. The current method involves vitrification, not freezing. Vitrification is an ice-free process in which more than 60% of the water inside cells is replaced with protective chemicals. This completely prevents freezing during deep cooling. Instead of freezing, molecules just move slower and slower until all chemistry stops at the glass transition temperature (approximately -124C). Unlike freezing, there is no ice formation or ice damage in vitrified tissue. Blood vessels have been reversibly vitrified, and whole kidneys have been recovered and successfully transplanted after cooling to -45C while protected with vitrification chemicals.

    • I think a cooler application would be freeze-resistant crops. The difficulty might be that the glycolipid (xylomannan) needs several enzymes to be correctly produced in other organisms than this beetle - in contrast to previous "antifreeze" proteins where freeze-resistance only involves introducing one new gene into the organism.
      • by MrMr (219533)
        Xylomannan occurs naturally in the cell walls of red algae, so recombination genes for plants are already available...
    • by Hatta (162192)

      No, nothing here would cause cryogenics to become economically viable. What motivation would future generations have to unthaw you? They already have your money.

      • by maxume (22995)

        You've clearly never basked in my awesomeness.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        What motivation would future generations have to unthaw you? They already have your money.

        Have you looked at our Federal deficit lately? Future generations will unthaw us so they can sick their debt collectors on us ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        Y3K? COBOL programmers could be very valuable.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It would be fun to proclaim in a loud voice: "Welcome to the world of tomorrow!"

    • Yes well maybe sorta. Let's find out.

      The trick might be that you would have to have a special GM modified (species)
      of human with these (and perhaps other) antifreeze proteins inserted in their DNA.
      This already works for plants: mammal data, not so good.

      Simple transfusion of these in the blood of a normal human probably would
      never work (but is being explored to preserve organs)

      And no guarantees about your brain making the trip to cold storage and back
      intact. We wont ask much of you when you get to Jupiter.

      53

    • by DJRumpy (1345787)

      That is exactly what this new molecule does. The beetle actually freezes at minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit, and survives all the way down to minus 100. The chemical make up up the molecule is similar to the makeup of a cell membrane. Apparently if it was made up of mostly proteins like more common anti-freeze molecules, it would be too large according to TFA.

      "UAF graduate student and project collaborator Todd Sformo found that the Alaska Upis beetle, which has no common name, first freezes at about minus 18.5

    • If these beetles contain corrosion inhibitor molecules to, it'd be perfect for the radiator of my V8 Leyland P76, SQ-36 is getting damned expensive these days.

    • > Could this discovery be developed to make cryogenically preserving people work?

      No, but it is another step in that direction.

      > As it is right now, the cells rupture during the freezing process

      This isn't completely correct. The current state of the art causes significant dehydration of cells, and very few of them actually rupture during freezing. With vitrification, this damage is reduced even further as tissues become super-viscuous (like glass) instead of freezing.

      The $64,000 problem with working

  • wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @06:53PM (#30517970)

    "ice crystals in an insect or other organism can draw so much water out of the organism's cells that those cells die"

    I thought the main problem was that the ice crystals both become sharp (like a crystal) and grow a bit in volume (ice being less dense than water) -- so the ice would burst out of the cell ravangin the cell walls and everything else at the same time. ...but the leading idea to save the cell was to pull a treefrog -- have a protein that expells the water from the cell, freeze drying the cell, so it was not damaged and in theory would take water back up again at warmer temps, without said ice crystal damage...

    For the record, i can't RTFA from where i'm posting.

    • Re:wait... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Firehed (942385) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:01PM (#30518038) Homepage

      For the record, i can't RTFA from where i'm posting.

      Well of course not. This is Slashdot, after all.

    • Re:wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:11PM (#30518136) Journal

      Unfortunately the summery took this bit drectly from TFA and it is as you'd suspect, technically incorrect. Ice breaks open the cells (lysing them) which causes the cell contents to spill out of the cell into whatever medium they are in. This quite predictably, kills the cells. However, ice that forms extremely rapidly forms a glass-like phase of ice that does less harm to the cells. The interesting things about this new antifreeze molecule are that 1) it's not a protein; it's a fairly simple molecule and 2) it's lipophillic (tends to hang around fatty things like cell membranes) which makes it a very useful discovery in terms of biological antifreeze molecules.

    • "so the ice would burst out of the cell ravaging the cell membranes and everything else at the same time." Plants have cell walls, animals have cell membranes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thinboy00 (1190815)

        "so the ice would burst out of the cell ravaging the cell membranes and everything else at the same time." Plants have cell walls and cell membranes, animals only have cell membranes.

        FTFY

      • In fact, plant cells have a cell membrane and a cell wall. Thanks to the cell wall, the cell membrane can only expand to a certain size (pushing towards the wall: Turgor pressure), which means that a plant cell in low-salt (destilled) water will not burst as an animal cell does.
  • YES! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr.Fork (633378) <edward,j,reddy&gmail,com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @06:58PM (#30518008) Journal
    Now they can develop a candy for kids in the wintertime so they can stop sticking their tongues to metal posts!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by temmi (706263)
      Sorry... as long as there are metal posts kids will try and stick their tongues to them. It's the law of nature.
    • How is this insightful? Really, if you have your tongue stuck to anything, be it a popsicle or a metal pole you can just pour some warm water over it and it comes off just fine.
      • by mirix (1649853)
        I seem to recall that cold water is supposed to work better, for some reason I can't seem to think of.
        • by canajin56 (660655)
          The most commonly offered reason (that hot water freezes faster than cold water) is that the rate of evaporation increases with water temperature, and so the evaporative cooling effect is stronger for hot water than it is for cold, so hot water gets cold faster. But that's a dumb reason, since while true, the rate wouldn't be fixed there, it would stay proportional to the temperature, so when the hot water had cooled to the same temperature as your cold water, its rate of evaporation would be the same, and
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by camperdave (969942)
        The problem is, of course, how do you go and fetch the warm water when your tongue is frozen to the pole.
        • Most people carry a repository of warm water (plus other stuff) in their bladder for just such an occasion! And if you can't aim well enough then ask a friend to help.

        • by steelfood (895457)

          It doesn't have to be warm water per se. It just needs to be warm, and have mostly water. With that in mind, I'll say: Point upwards.

    • Pssssssh, poles are nothing. Real Men try licking frozen traintracks....

      =P seems like the particularly appropriate smiler for this post.
  • ...poor guy
  • Am I the only one that was more interested in the ice cream?
  • ...the beetles have no protection against boil-over.

  • They never overheated, and didn't require coolant.
  • by GaryOlson (737642)
    Since the summary is inadequate and misleading.....
    New Antifreeze Molecule Isolated In Alaska Beetle

    Scientists have identified a novel antifreeze molecule in a freeze-tolerant Alaska beetle able to survive temperatures below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike all previously described biological antifreezes that contain protein, this new molecule, called xylomannan, has little or no protein. It is composed of a sugar and a fatty acid and may exist in new places within the cells of organisms.

    "The mo
  • by formfeed (703859) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:41PM (#30518402)
    Beetlejuice!
    • by Hailth (1479371)

      At first when I read the title, I thought mainly the same thing. "Oh great, now there are going to be gigantic nasty farms of these beetles in order to fill every car with cheap, organic antifreeze."

      The image was so horrifying... I can't think of a better place to be tortured to death than under a pile of Alaskan beetles in a beetle farm. Maybe it will happen in Saw 31.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:40PM (#30518778)

    I used to drive a 1963 Beetle. They don't need antifreeze!

  • Other insects use these molecules

    "Hi, can I use your molecules for several months?"

  • its been below zero outside for weeks, snow is piled high. working on this house with sunken foot high wells for the basement windows, requiring you to clean out the snow and leaves that often gather in the wells, so it doesn't break the windows or leak water inside. so i'm yanking out this snow and compacted ice and leaves accumulated, and underneath, half frozen in the ice, is a dead toad. sad

    then the fucker kicks me

    absolutely blew my mind. well below zero in february. half frozen in ice. i put him back i

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS

Working...