Halloween's creepiest creatures could help save lives

Bats, spiders inspire medical breakthroughs

They're spooky and scary, but some of Halloween's creepiest creatures could help save lives.

Vampire bats could stop strokes

Vampire bats are the stuff of Halloween nightmares. But when vampire bats feed, their saliva keeps blood from clotting in their prey, and that's a quality that could help humans suffering a stroke.

Research suggests a drug made from the bat's saliva may work faster and better than the current stroke treatment, even up to nine hours after a stroke occurs. The current window for drug treatment is only about three hours.

The first human studies of the compound were conducted in 2006 at Ohio State University Medical Center. Researchers found the medication was safe. Now an international study will determine how effective the drug is in a large pool of stroke patients.

Spiders inspire web of research

It's not just bats making breakthroughs -- spiders are also spinning a web of new research.

Bioengineer Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and his team were inspired by the geometry of spider webs to create a new kind of medical tape that is safer for the most fragile patients.

"In nature, spider webs have very sticky regions, as well as regions that are not so sticky," said Karp. "What that enables is that the spider web can capture prey on the sticky regions, but the spider is able to walk across its web on the non-sticky regions. So we made use of this concept in this neonatal adhesive."

Premature babies have extremely fragile skin that is often damaged when the medical tape needed to hold tubes and devices in place is removed.

"We changed the point where the bandage breaks to a middle layer," explained Karp. "We patterned this layer with adhesive and non-adhesive domains, just like that observed in a spider web so that we could control the interaction of the adhesive with the backing layer; that you could remove the backing from the underlying adhesive with minimal force."

That could someday mean less pain for preemies and other patients with delicate skin.

Pumpkin packs a healthy punch

It wouldn't be Halloween without a Jack-o-lantern, and nutrition experts say that pumpkin is packed with vitamin A, fiber and iron.

Studies suggest vitamin A could play a role in fighting cancer and heart disease and minimizing the signs of aging.

When you're cleaning out your pumpkin, don't toss the seeds.

Dr. Tanya Edwards, a wellness expert at Cleveland Clinic, said eating half a cup of pumpkin seeds once or twice a day may help you sleep better at night.

Studies suggest a compound in pumpkin seeds may also reduce the inflammation caused by arthritis.

Pumpkin seeds should be eaten in moderation since they're high in calories. The rest of the pumpkin is naturally low-fat, unless of course you turn it into a pie!

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