Antifreeze, Fish, and Ice Cream

From Issue: Discovery 1/1/2003

If you live in a part of the United States where it gets cold in the winter, you are probably aware that people have to put antifreeze in their car’s radiator. Otherwise, the cold temperatures will freeze the water that cools the engine. Have you ever wondered how fish that live in frigid, icy waters keep from freezing? After all, they don’t have wet suits, fur coats, or electric blankets!

Scientists have been studying fish that live in the sub-zero waters of the Arctic and Antarctic. They have found that fish produce their own protection against the cold. They make natural chemicals called antifreeze glycoproteins that keep their blood and tissues from freezing. Fish cannot keep from swallowing ice particles in seawater. Though scientists are not yet exactly sure how the fish do it, their in-built protection system interrupts the growth of ice crystals. Their antifreeze proteins are far more effective than anything humans have invented. Fish are not the only organisms of God’s creation that produce their own protection from the cold. Many insects and plants do the same.

Looking at how God designed fish to survive the cold is leading to the development of many wonderful things for people, including frost-protection sprays for crops, longer storage time for blood platelets, and more time to get organ donations to patients needing transplants. And that’s not all. What about those unpleasant moments when you open the freezer part of your refrigerator, only to find that your favorite ice cream has become the victim of “freezer burn”? Dessert companies are now doing experiments that they hope will be able to keep ice cream from forming those distasteful ice crystals! This is yet another case where man is copying God’s creation in order to make progress.


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