By: Mary Beth McAndrews
Just a few days ago, Vice News posted a 20-minute documentary about the rainforests of Panama and how they might hold the cures for diseases such as malaria, Chagas, and even breast cancer. Among the plants and animals highlighted in the documentary, the sloth, everybody’s favorite slow-moving critter, was one of the most important. But how could the laziest creatures of the animal kingdom possibly hold the cures for fatal diseases -- even cancer?
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The answer lies in their hair, which is especially adapted to carry algae which can only be found on the backs of sloths. Hair is usually smooth, but the hair of a sloth is cracked to accommodate the growth of algae and fungi. On average, a sloth could be carrying up to 85 different kinds of fungi whose compounds could help in fighting diseases. In the documentary, sloths are called, “little pharmacies,” and it isn’t far off from the truth.