Nature's Medicine Cabinet
Advances in genetic research are opening up the natural world to medical researchers. Can we safely exploit the world's plants and animals for use in medicine? Alice Roberts investigates.
Take the venom from a scorpion, the suckers from a starfish and the sting from a bee. You won't create a spell to turn a prince into a frog but you might just find a new anti-asthma spray, a way to prevent the failure of heart by-passes or the answer to drug-resistant bacteria
Rapid advances in genetic research are throwing open the medical treasure chest of the natural world. Chemicals that perform a clear function for a plant or animal can be isolated, studied and, in some cases, applied to complex medical problems.
This is obviously good news for patients but could it also be good news for endangered wildlife? Could we soon be concentrating our limited conservation resources on saving the plants and animals that offer up something to humanity?
Dr. Alice Roberts and medical writer John Naish explore nature's medicine cabinet and consider the ethical dilemmas.