How Are LLAMAS Fighting VIRUSES?!

It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!

We find out the oldest animal in the world that lives in the UK! And in recent news we hear about a foxes favourite food….beware its a bit stinky, and VERY GROSS. As always we are answering your questions, this week they’re on boredom and sleep!

Techno Mum takes on her Tech Trivia Quiz on Recycling this week, can you score better than her? And we take a dive inside your mouth with Professor Hallux!

The creature on Dangerous Dan this week loves to eat human flesh, but what could it be?

MOBILE: Fun Kids Science Weekly

The science podcast for kids with Dan exploring the weirdest and coolest stuff in science!

Here’s the episode below:

Dan: Well ahoy, hello and welcome to a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan. Thank you for joining me, for following, downloading, streaming, subscribing I’m so delighted that you’ve chosen to come come along on this journey around the universe. Your mission, should you choose to accept, we’re searching out the smartest science secrets lurking around the solar system and you’ve chosen wisely. This week, honestly, we’ll hear something utterly mind boggling. It’s all about how llamas could be the key to curing all diseases…

Hang on a second, you said you have cupboards full of viruses, where do you get them from?

Lauren: So we get them from lots of different places, but most importantly th-

Dan: Also, Techno Mum is back. This week, Mum is back this week, she’s taking on a huge quiz show all about recycling.

Host: Welcome back to Tech Trivia, the game show that tests the technical talents of our tremendous contestants. And playing this week it’s Techno Mum. Now, you’ve been smashing our scoreboards so far, but the game is not over yet. Let’s get going and spin the wheel. And today’s category is recycling. Your time starts now. Your first question. Why is recycling important in technology?

Techno Mum: Well, recycling is important for every-

Dan: And I’ve got your questions as always. This week, they are on boredom and on sleep. We’ll get to that in just a second. Stay there. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly.

Science in the News: Skye Salamander fossils discovered as world’s oldest, Foxes Eating Poo?! And Why Did T-Rex’s Have Small Arms?

Dan: Let’s get started with your science in the news, it’s been revealed Skye salamanders are the world’s oldest, now they look blackish brown with orange spots all over. They’re found around islands near Scotland and researchers have found fossils there from 166,000,000 years ago which show they’re almost the same creature. So Skye salamanders are the oldest ones around.

Also here is something gross but important and fun to hear about. It turns out foxes live mostly on dog poo. Experts have found that dog poo makes up a huge part of fox’s diets. You see, normally a fox will eat other foxes poo, who knew? And it’s got lots of important nutrients in there, but it’s quite hard to find. So instead, they have to resort to dog poo instead.

brown fox lying on black rock

And finally, a team of experts in Argentina say they have figured out why the T-rex had a big head but small arms. They say it gave them serious survival advantages. They had strong muscles in there and their shoulders as well were huge, which helped them grip onto creatures and also push themselves up when they fell over, so other prey couldn’t come in and get them. That’s why they had a big head, but small arms.

dinosaur skeleton

Professor Hallux Digital Dental Depository – How to Stop Tooth Decay

Dan: Let’s catch up with Professor Hallux. Now, we’ve been joining in his dental depository series for the last few weeks. This is because his uncle, the world famous Halitosis, is celebrating his 100th birthday. So in his honour, Professor Hallux has made a pop up mouth help desk. If you like checking out what’s going on in your gums, under your lips, through your teeth, why you have bad breath, what bacteria and germs can live there. This week it’s all about sugar. You might eat a lot of sugar every day and we’re finding out what that does to your teeth.

Professor Hallux: It’s a super sweet set of sizzlers today, Nanobot. All about sugar. Wind it up and let it go.

Nurse: First question how does sugar harm our teeth?

Professor Hallux: It’s not the sugar itself that causes damage to teeth. It’s the acid that bacteria creates when it consumes the sugar. Sugar is a source of food and energy to bacteria, you see, and as they break it down, acids are produced. This acid breaks through the enamel on your teeth, creating tiny holes which can cause your teeth to be sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures. Over time, those tiny holes can get bigger and bigger until they form large holes called cavities, and that’s tooth decay.

four assorted-color toothbrushes

Nurse: Good start. It’s a true or false. In the UK, sugar has been causing harm to our teeth for thousands of years. True or false?

Professor Hallux: I’m going to say false. It’s false because we only started to import sugar in the Tudor period. That’s from the late 1400s. Scientists know from studying the teeth in skeletons that before then, people’s teeth were actually pretty healthy. The first sugar and sugary delicacies were luxuries, and only for the rich. Queen Elizabeth I was so fond of sugar, it said her teeth were rotten and black.

By the 1700s, sugar was available to everyone. And that’s when tooth decay became more common. Funnily enough, that’s when dentistry also became more common with all those yucky rotten teeth to pull out.

Nurse: So, if you can’t resist sweet treats, what’s the best way to prevent damage?

Professor Hallux: Well, drinking water is a helpful way to wash the acids away. Your own spit or saliva contains minerals which can help repair damage to your teeth, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The acid attacks from bacteria only lasts around 20 minutes, so it’s better to eat sweet things over short periods, not over a long period of guzzling pop or munching on snacks. That way, you’re reducing the amount of time your teeth are under attack. And using a straw is a great way to stop a sweet drink coating your teeth. And don’t forget to use a paper or reusable straw much better for the environment than single use plastic.

blue and white plastic bottle

Nurse: Coming up to the finish now. You should always clean your teeth as soon as you’ve had a sugary snack or drink. Is that true or false?

Professor Hallux: It’s actually false. When the acid is being produced. It can actually cause more harm if you brush your teeth straight away, as you might be helping the acid through the enamel. It’s better to use a mouthwash and save your brushing for twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Using an electric toothbrush and flossing can help ensure you get into all the cracks.

Nurse: That’s correct. And time’s up. Brilliant, professor. Very respectable score there and lots of data for our digital dental depository.

Answering Your Questions: Why do we get Bored? & Why do we Sleep?

Dan: Let’s get to your questions. I love this part of the show. I love the incredible questions that you come up with about all different aspects of science and then send to me as a review on Apple podcasts. First up this week is Lucy, who’s up in Scotland, near where the world famous old Skye salamanders are from. Lucy wants to know, why do we get bored? Well, people are bored on average, 131 days of the year.

Now, experts have done tests and studies on boredom, and you know what they found out? It’s actually quite good for you. You see, your brain has a default state when it’s not doing anything. Now, your brain, when it gets used to something new, it reverts back to that default state, kind of like a standby mode on your games console. Now, when that’s happening, it makes different parts of your brain fire off. That’s what happens when you get bored and it helps you create and imagine different things, which is why boredom is actually pretty good for you. Thank you, Lucy.

This one is from Kane, who wants to know why we sleep. Well, this goes back to your brain a bit as well. A few things happen in your brain and in your body when you nod off. In your head, sleep gives your mind a chance to sort through what’s happened that day. It figures out what’s important, what it needs to remember and what needs to be thrown away and chucked in the recycle bin.

Also, your body needs sleep because that’s when it grows, that’s when cells can divide and multiply. That’s when you get more of those. That’s when your bones get longer and get stronger. And that happens a lot when you’re young. So when you’re a kid, you need loads more sleep than you do when you get older, because you’re growing so much more. Kane, thank you for the question.

white cat sleeps under white comforter

If there’s something sciencey to you want answered on the show so easy, get yourself to the Apple podcast if that’s where you listen, find the Fun Kids Science Weekly. Three things you need to do. Leave your name so I can say hello. Give us five stars. That really helps me see it. And then you’ve got a comment box at the bottom and that is where you leave your question. And I’ll try and get to it next week.

Interview withLauren Eyssen from the Rosalind Franklin Institute

Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly. Now, here’s a big question we’re going to find the answer to. How can llamas be the key to curing diseases? We’ll find out with Lauren Eyssen, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Rosalind Franklin Institute and joins us now. Lauren, thank you for being there.

Lauren: Hi.

Dan: So this is all part of the Royal Society’s summer science exhibition? They’ve got a big show which shows you how this can happen. When did we first start to think that there might be something with llamas that can help us out?

Lauren: So it’s been around for quite a while, but within the last 20 years we’ve seen that the llama’s antibodies look slightly different to the humans and we thought that this may be quite useful for us in science.

Dan: So what do antibodies actually look like then? How do we know that llamas look different?

Lauren: So, human antibodies almost have a Y shape and they almost are in double. So if you can imagine two Y’s on top of each other, whereas a llama similar to a Y, but it’s a lot shorter, and we can actually break up the llama antibodies into much smaller little pieces, which are actually useful for us.

brown and white llama on brown dirt ground during daytime

Dan: So what is it in the antibodies that might help us with diseases and curing them in the future?

Lauren: So antibodies are very useful in binding to the different targets. So, for example, Covid, we want to bind to the spike, so we need to try to find the antibodies that bind to the correct places. So either we find an antibody that can stop it from binding or to actually kill the virus in itself.

Dan: So what happens next, then, with it, Lauren? We think we’ve got these antibodies from the llamas and it might help us out. What do scientists need to do?

Lauren: So scientists then need to do a whole lot of testing. So we have little viruses in little petri dishes, in very safe cabinets, and we add these different antibodies and llama antibodies to see if these antibodies will stop the viruses from progressing. And if that happens, we then go to try and test it on mouse models of virally infected creatures.

Dan: Hang on a second, you said you have cupboards full of viruses. Where do you get them from?

Lauren: So we get them from lots of different places, but most importantly the NIH, if I remember correctly, and they literally have cupboards for people to do research on these specific viruses.

Dan: And Scientists can just make viruses, can they?

red and white flower petals

Lauren: No, so they can’t just make viruses. So it’s a very controlled process and many of these viruses we get from samples that are collected from hospitals. And we can only work on them if we’ve given them a specific plan and so they monitor what we actually do to the virus. So we can’t make a super virus or anything.

Dan: So how much do we know about what diseases might be able to be cured by llamas? I mean, there’s talk about Covid, but is there anything else that these antibodies can help us with?

Lauren: So the Covid pandemic helped us to launch this platform to show that our llama antibodies can be useful against a very important disease. So there’s actually no, the sky’s the limit to what disease we can target. So at the moment, we are going to be looking at different other viruses, just in case something like this happens again.

Dan: Do llamas get sick themselves, do we know?

Lauren: No, they don’t. So we don’t inject the llamas with the virus particle, so we just take, like you would with your Covid vaccination, you get a small bit of the protein that’s important. So we make this protein in the laboratories and we inject the llamas with that.

Dan: But what about llamas in themselves? So if they’ve got these super antibodies, are there any llama diseases that they get that really impacts them?

Lauren: Not that I know of.

Dan: So they’re just these superbeasts!

Lauren: They’re super beasts…I’m sure they do get sick normally. So what our application is just very different. So the llamas that we use are kept under supervision like pretty much 24/7. So if there are any sicknesses, we can test for them and treat as normal. But they’re normal animal diseases that you’d get like cows get sick and horses and stuff like that. Yeah.

Dan: These special antibodies, do we think they’re almost like very special and exclusive to the llama? Or does this open up an idea that maybe other creatures might have some super bacteria fighting antibodies that maybe we can use?

Lauren: Yes, so the llamas, they come from the camelid family, so camels also have these kinds of antibodies, they’re just a lot more difficult to get hold of. Llamas we can get here in the UK much easily and another kind of antibody are sharks. Sharks have also special types of frameworks for their antibodies which people have actually looked at, but I would rather look at trying keeping llamas than a shark to get these antibodies from.

gray shark in body of water

Dan: You don’t want to be someone in a scuba suit having to try to prod a shark under the ocean!

Lauren: Yeah, no. Not for me.

Dan: I don’t think so. Well listen, we can find out loads more. As I say, the Royal Society have got their summer science exhibition on in the next few months where you can learn all about llamas helping us fight viruses. LaurenEyssen, thank you so much for joining us.

Dangerous Dan: Scorpion Fly

Dan: Now this week’s Dangerous Dan is something truly terrifying. Every week we talk about some of the mean and cruellest things in the world and the universe. This week it’s something that might actually give you nightmares. Let’s take a look at the Scorpion Fly.

What do you reckon they look like? Well, they look scary. They’ve got a yellowish orange back with a black stripe that runs down it. They’ve got a huge black and white patterned wing, a large snout on their heads which they used to feed. The most terrifying thing to look at though, and it’s what gives them their name, is their tail. It flicks out the back of their body with a curved end that makes it look a bit like a scorpion. Now that’s used for mating and they are found all around the world.

And what makes this creature really creepy? They’re predators of other dead animals. They’re normally the first insects to arrive at a creature that has just gone and it feasts. And what makes them even worse. Get ready for this. It’s not nice, but they’re known to be particularly obsessed with dead humans. It’s a strange fascination, but it means the scorpion fly goes straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.

Techno Mum Tech Trivia: Recycling

Dan: It’s time to check in with Techno Mum now, she’s our favourite gadget genius. We’ve heard a few series with her before when she answers your questions about technology. And this time out, she’s getting involved in a brilliant new quiz show. It tests her knowledge more than most times, finding out all about the most amazing, epic new discoveries, the new things we found in tech and how they are useful and how they came about. This week, it’s all about recycling.

Host: Welcome back to Tech Trivia, the game show that tests the technical talents of our tremendous contestants. And playing this week it’s Techno Mum. Now, you’ve been smashing our scoreboards so far, but the game is not over yet. Let’s get going and spin the wheel. And today’s category is recycling. Your time starts now. Your first question. Why is recycling important in technology?

Techno Mum: Well, recycling is important for everyone. There’s only a certain amount of resources on our planet, and with many of them, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Now, most designers want the things they make to be available, not just today, but tomorrow, next week and even next year. That’s called being sustainable. But if you want your stuff to be sustainable, you need to think carefully as you design your new product. And before choosing the raw materials.

Sometimes reusing something can be cheaper than using something new. You’ve probably got a refillable water bottle for school. That’s certainly cheaper than buying a new bottle every day. Well, these days, designers will design what they make so parts can easily be reused. Did you know that around 90% of a modern car can be recycled? Metals can be used to build a new car, whilst old tires can go into road surfacing.

And if you think about it, design is not just about reusing materials. Part of what engineers do every day is recycle ideas, reusing the very best ideas, improving them to come up with brilliant new solutions to problems.


Host: Well, you’re improving your score alright! Next question: Name a cool way recycling has solved an engineering problem.

Techno Mum: Oh, gosh, there’s loads. Well, a bit like glass bottles, plastic bottles can also be recycled and made into clothing. The plastic is shredded, melted and spun into polyester. That’s a type of thread.

And milk cartons can be recycled as well into other plastic things like fenceposts. In fact, new plastic can be made from all sorts of substances. There’s even a type of plastic which is made from pig wee.

Host: Ugh, gross! But, hey, that is pretty cool. Last question and you’re going to have to be quick. Can you give me a job where you’d need to use recycling?

Techno Mum: I’m going to say aerospace engineering. That’s like being a rocket scientist. In some places, recycling is the only way to get things done. For example, space. If you are travelling to Mars, you can’t get supplies along the way, but supplies are heavy and they can slow you down.

So the more you can recycle, the further you can go. Aerospace engineers are expert at figuring out ways to reuse things that are likely to run out, like water to drink and oxygen to breathe.

Host: I have to stop you there. The results are through and you’re through to the next round Techno Mum!

Techno Mum: Great! That means you won’t need to get a new contestant in – recycling in action.

Dan: And that’s it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly. Thank you so much for listening. If there’s something you want answered on this show next week dead easy, here’s what you need to do. Get to Apple podcasts, leave us a question as a review. I will see it and I’ll try and cover it. I’ll do all the research next week on the podcast. Also, while you’re on Apple, you can hear loads of the brilliant series that we do. We’ve got them there on Google, Spotify as well, and they’re on the free Fun Kids app. And Fun Kids we are children’s radio station from the UK. Listen all around the country on your DAB digital radio and over at

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