Rainforests and Our Daily Lives
As far away as rainforests may be, they are intimately connected with our daily lives. It may be as prosaic as a forest product that we enjoy. It may be as all encompassing as the dire threat climate change poses for all. In other instances it could be a useful medicine. Or, it could be the fundamental living library with untold numbers of species, the study of which advances the life sciences in hard-to-predict but fundamentally important ways.
A fascinating example of the latter involves a poisonous viper of the new world tropical forests, the Bushmaster. Scientists in Brazil studied how the venom works to cause the blood pressure of its prey to drop to zero, and thereby discovered the angiotensin system of blood pressure regulation. Venom does not work as a medicine because the digestive system denatures proteins, but knowing that the system existed they were able to devise a molecule that acts on it. That produced the class of drugs known as ACE-inhibitors. So tens of millions of people in the world lead longer, healthier and more productive lives because of the biology of a nasty snake in a far away rainforest. That potential exists in every species, and is why the rainforests are not only beautiful and fascinating but very useful.