Four years of studying the saliva of a Gulf of Mexico species of octopus has produced the surprising though preliminary discovery that it could aid in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
The lead researcher at the Sisal, Yucatán, unit of the Chemistry School of the National Autonomous University (UNAM) cautioned that their promising studies are still only at the first stage.
After analyzing the saliva of the red octopus (Octopus maya), also known as the Mexican Four-eyed Octopus, the team lead by Sergio Rodríguez Morales found an amino acid sequence similar to that of a protein found in the human brain that is related to Alzheimer’s disease.
The octopus’ saliva — a cocktail of polypeptides, proteins, free amino acids, enzymes, ions and carbohydrates — is of interest to researchers because it serves the mollusc in two distinct ways during feeding.
Once the octopus catches its prey — mostly crustaceans such as crabs — with its tentacles, the saliva is injected, immediately paralyzing it.
The octopus then holds onto its prey long enough for the proteases in the saliva to turn the crustacean’s fibrous tissue into an easily ingestible gel.
The paralyzing components of the saliva have temporary effects. “The prey returned to normal after two hours,” explained Rodríguez. Further tests on mice found that this component of the red octopus’ saliva could serve as a muscle relaxant.
The component that effectively dissolves the innards of the mollusc’s prey has been considered for industrial uses, such as tenderizing meat or as detergents.
The research was carried out on 100 adult specimens weighing 600 grams, caught by local fishermen and then held in live tanks.
Source: Milenio (sp)