The Things Roos Do

February 8th, 2010

Little did you know that kangaroos have the power to save the world.

A recent press release in my email in-box tipped me off to the hidden super-powers of our bouncing animal friends from the land of Aus.

According to the press release, a study published in 2009 found that bacteria living in the guts of roos produce cancer-fighting anzymes. When tested in mice, injections of bacterial spores had 35-40% success in fighting cancerous tumors.

“In the labs, we train the bacteria, so they develop their innate ability to colonise tumours, digesting them, and stimulating the body’s natural immune system,” said Assoc. Prof. Ming Wei from the Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research.

This study got me to thinking about what else I have heard about kangaroos through the science grapevine, and I remembered another amazing kangaroo ability that was uncovered back in 2007… kangaroos can fight global warming.

Well, it’s actually once again thanks to the bacteria that live in their guts that kangaroos have the fate of the world on their shoulders.

Most ruminants, animals with stomachs capable of fermentation, produce LOTS of methane. Methane is known to be a powerful greenhouse gas and a major factor in global climate change. Most of the methane released into the atmosphere related to human activities comes from our livestock. So, scientists are trying to figure out how to reduce the methane produced during the ruminant digestive process.

Back to kangaroos… kangaroos are foregut fermenters like cows, but it turns out that they don’t produce methane. The bacteria in their guts utilize a slightly different chemical process from that of other fermenting bacteria, and produce acetate as a bi-product instead.

Now that they have this interesting piece of information, scientists are on working on transferring kangaroo bacteria into cows. The problem they have to solve is how to get the bacteria to live in a stomach that is both anatomically and environmentally different from that of the kangaroo.

I wonder if it might be easier to get people to eat kangaroo.

11 Responses to “The Things Roos Do”

  1. Tim Beauchamp on February 8, 2010 2:08 pm

    The article indicated that the process resulting in acetate result in 10 to 15 per cent more energy being available for the kangaroo? I don’t think of cows expending a lot of energy running around and their surface area to mass seems much smaller than a kangaroo, so they may need less energy to maintain body heat.

    That sounds like a win-win.

    I wonder if this could also have benefit to people who are not able to consume as much food because of illness or famine.

    I am not sure if I am ready to give up beef for kangaroo yet.

  2. Nic Wise on February 8, 2010 2:19 pm

    Well, ‘roo’s are tasty, thats for sure. And they breed like, well…. roo’s 🙂

    Ah, Australia: the only country which has to cull it’s national animal. 🙂

  3. Mojomichael on February 8, 2010 2:25 pm

    Would be easier if kangaroos weren’t Winnie the Pooh characters or enjoyed boxing with Sylvester the cat. Not nearly as many cute cow characters to make people think twice about eating them. Roos are too cute to make this easy.

  4. Epicanis on February 8, 2010 4:07 pm

    Argh! Science by press release!

    I hate when they do this with research that interests me. Pubmed doesn’t appear to have any of this professor’s publications on this topic, and even Griffiths University itself (according to Google) only has the press release (and a newsletter with an even more abbreviated mention of the research).

    Dr. Wei is almost certainly working with some variety of Clostridium bacteria, which appear to have been worked on as a potential therapy for hard tumors for a while now. Very nifty-looking research. Usually I’m not that interested in medical microbiology, just because it’s usually not so much “microbiology” as the “prevention of microbiology” (i.e. killing microbes or preventing their growth).

    I guess this is kind of like the use of medical maggots for cleaning up wounds. The bacteria eat the tumor and then go dormant in oxygenated healthy tissue. “Attack, my microbial minions! AH, HA HA HA HA HA!….”

    I did find a related study from 2006 that appears to show a lot of promise for the technique (I’m at work on my lunch break, so I unfortunately don’t have time to dig deeper):
    ( Theys J,Pennington O,Dubois L,Anlezark G,Vaughan T,Mengesha A,Landuyt W,Anne J,Burke PJ,Durre P,Wouters BG,Minton NP,Lambin P:”Repeated cycles of Clostridium-directed enzyme prodrug therapy result in sustained antitumour effects in vivo”; Br J Cancer; 2006; Vol 95 #9; pp 1212-1219 )

    Slightly more boring but still interesting is the possible use of Clostridium toxins directly against tumors – apparently someone’s already applied for a patent to wall of the use of the technique by others (Grrrrrr…..):

  5. bigjohn756 on February 8, 2010 4:11 pm

    It would be difficult to get people to eat kangaroo if they all tasted like the stuff I was fed while in Oz several years ago. I didn’t like it at all. I can’t really describe what it tasted like since I have never tasted anything like it. OTOH, they serve it a lot down there.

  6. Steve on February 8, 2010 5:31 pm

    It would be pretty funny watching a bunch of rooboys on horses out on the range in Texas rounding up kangaroos.

  7. Geoff Vivian on February 8, 2010 7:19 pm

    Hi Dr Kiki love your website.

    I produce a news site for the Kimberley (far north WA) and just had to link to this story.

    Best regards,

    Geoff Vivian

  8. Matt Ford on February 9, 2010 6:13 am

    I live in Oz and so far, can’t say a lot of people seem to eat roo. I’ve had it a few times and it’s a bit too gamey and tough for my liking. Tried roo mince (rooburger meat) in a ziti and it also tasted too gamey. Probably an acquired taste but I don’t see it taking off too soon. Too bad because it’s a lot less footprinty than cow.

    Camel meat, that’s the go. Camel is delicious and it’s even more of a pest than roo is here.

  9. Tim on February 9, 2010 3:34 pm

    This makes me feel even better about my recent purchase of kangaroo-leather shoes!

  10. Anonymous on February 17, 2010 3:46 pm

    What’s an ‘anzyme’?

  11. Tim McDonald on March 11, 2010 9:15 am

    Back in the early ’80s there was a huge scandal about Australian beef actually being kangaroo meat. It seems some of the Aussie beef producers were killing off the kangaroos, and butchering them and including them with their beef shipments to the US of A.

    I was working at a grocery store at the time while going to school, and our “bull meat” (frozen, misc. cow parts used to grind hamburger) came from Australia. Turns out we had gotten some of the lot numbers which contained roo.

    The REALLY funny thing is, we got more compliments on our ground beef (so lean! so fresh! keep doing whatever you are doing different!) during this period than it HAD to be the roo meat making the differnce!

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