We know that bananas are full of potassium and sugary goodness, but what scientific mysteries do they hold? New research from an international team comprised of 26 scientists confirms that bananas are more than just a healthy treat.
According to the University of Michigan, the team was able to take a protein from bananas called banana lectin (BanLec) and "carefully edit" it to make it even more effective at fighting viruses like HIV and influenza. "Five years ago, scientists showed [banana lectin] could keep the virus that causes AIDS from getting into cells, but it also caused side effects that limited its potential use," an article on the school's website states.
That's why this modified version of BanLec is so huge -- it's effective at fighting viruses without causing "irritation and unwanted inflammation."
"The first thing is that this is still very much in the research phase," Dr. David Markovitz, a co-senior author of the study and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, told MTV News. "So we're very happy with the way this large, collaborative team came up with a really great way to modify a chemical from bananas and make it a much more likely thing to be used to treat people for viral infections."
Markovitz noted that that although the drug's results are promising, they haven't made it to human trials. "We've had very nice success in mice, but of course, we're very far from people still," he said. "It's important to note that we don't know if this is going to work in people. we hope, but we don't know that at all."
Markovitz also stressed that bananas themselves don't "cure" HIV, and their natural properties are not identical to the scientifically modified BanLec. "This is a product that has been cloned and molecularly modified to make it better, and so if you eat a banana, you're not getting our version of the BanLec, so the implications for bananas themselves are not that strong. It's really the specific protein ... I'm a fan of bananas, but eating bananas is not gonna be equivalent to what we're doing."
Markovitz said regarding the future of the drug, "The first [step] is to do further testing in mice in particular to assure us this a safe and promising agent to treat influenza and other viral infections. So far the data looked good, but we have a lot more to do. We have to make it so that it's a product that's acceptable to be put in people, so it's gotta be highly pure and safe."
So while bananas themselves don't exactly have all the answers for fighting viruses, they're dropping some major hints. One small step for man, one giant leap for bananakind.