With those large, chubby bodies and black-and-white faces that appear to have a big smile etched into them, pandas seem like the epitome of cute and cuddly. But researchers at China's Nanjing Agricultural University, who studied the endangered animals' DNA, found that their blood contains a powerful antibiotic compound called cathelicidin-AM, which helps to protect them against bacteria and fungi.
The chemical is so potent that it can kill bacteria in less than an hour, about a sixth of a time that it takes most familiar antibiotic drugs to do the job. Researchers are now trying to figure out how to turn the chemical into a drug that would work in humans. Fortunately for pandas, whose numbers in the wild are down to an estimated 1,600, scientists don't actually need to extract the substance from actual panda blood. They can make a synthetic version in the lab [source: Roberts].