Keanu Reeves is such as lethal presence on the silver screen that scientists have named a fungus-killing bacteria after him. That’s right, Reeves is now getting recognition in an unexpected field – mycology. The name isn’t inspired by his reputation for “down-to-earth” kindness and generosity though. It’s inspired by his efforts as a stealth killing machine in the film series John Wick.
The Keanu Reeves compound
The compound, called “Aptostichus keanu,” was discovered by researchers at the University of California, Riverside. It belongs to a class of compounds called cytochalasins, which have been shown to have antifungal and anticancer properties. Aptostichus keanu is particularly effective against fungi that cause diseases in crops, making it a potentially valuable tool in agriculture.
According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below), scientist Sebastian Götze the Washington Post’s Kyle Melnick:
“We were just basically blown away by the high activity. That’s why we basically said, ‘Yeah, it’s like an assassin, a hit man or something, killing a couple of different fungi very effectively.’”
The keanumycin compound bleeds the fungal pathogens to death by creating holes in the surface of fungal pathogens. Kinda like stabbing.
Keanu saves the crops
Even better is the fact that Reeves’ namesake compound might be a natural, effective fungicide that helps save crops.
“In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, lead author Götze and his colleagues describe keanumycins’ strength against a common plant pest that causes a gray mold rot. Called Botrytis cinerea, it affects more than 200 types of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and grapes, per the statement. The researchers used keanumycins to significantly clear this blight from hydrangea leaves,” reports Smithsonian.
This isn’t the first time a celebrity has had a scientific discovery named after them. In recent years, new species of animals and plants have been named after David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and Barack Obama, among others. These names are often chosen as a way to honor the person’s contributions to society or their cultural significance.
While Aptostichus keanu may not have the same level of cultural impact as Keanu Reeves’ films, it’s still an exciting discovery with potential applications in agriculture and medicine.
As for Reeves’ response to the whole this: it was priceless. During a Reddit question-and-answer session he answered a question about his namesake:
“They should’ve called it John Wick. But that’s pretty cool … and surreal for me. But thanks, scientist people! Good luck, and thank you for helping us.”