It sounds a bit icky, but researchers are happy about it. The protein foam produced by Tungara frogs while mating is fully compatible with human cells, it turns out, and could be an excellent way to treat wounds — particularly burns — in the future. Such a discovery was made by with the University of Strathclyde, who found that the frog’s foam is “highly stable” and can be used to slow-release antibiotics and other medication.
The Tungara frog is formally known as the Engystomops pustulosus, and it excretes a protein while mating that is then churned up into a foam by the frogs as they kick around their legs. The foam is used to protect the eggs, which are laid in the foamy nest; it also helps keep predators from eating the eggs, and helps block out environmental elements that could be damaging.
The aforementioned group of researchers have been studying this foam and have found it is able to essentially absorb medication and then release it at a slow, steady rate back into the environment. As well, the foam is not at all harmful to human cells, meaning it is safe to use in treatments for human wounds like burns. In tests, the foam was found to release meds at rates from 72 to 168 hours.
So far, researchers have been successful in creating bacteria that partially produces the foam, and they’re aiming to create a completely synthetic version for use in human medical treatments. Such a future is not anywhere near reality, but could be a viable solution to certain ailments one day.
Said the research team lead Dr. Paul Hoskisson:
Foams are unusual in nature and are typically made of inactivated proteins, yet this foam is stable and importantly compatible with human cells, making it potentially ideal for pharmaceutical applications. While foams like these are a long way from hitting the clinic, they could help in burns and wound treatment, providing support and protection for healing tissue and delivering drugs at the same time – all from a humble little frog.