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 user 2005-05-15 at 10:41:00 am Views: 72
  • #9426
    Ocean waters yield cancer therapy
    Scientists believe they can make cancer drugs from the humble
    sea squirt.

    A microbe that lives within this sea animal produces compounds that may fight
    some tumours.

    Using laboratory techniques they say it should be possible to produce enough
    of the compounds without having to destroy a large number of sea squirts.

    The University of Utah work, funded by the National Science Foundation, is
    described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Coral reefs and other ocean environments are like
    rainforests – full of natural chemicals to potentially treat human disease

    Researcher Dr Eric Schmidt

    Professor Marcel Jaspers, at the University of Aberdeen, along with
    colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, have made similar
    discoveries by looking at the sea squirt.

    The Utah researchers discovered that Prochloron microbes, which live
    inside the sea squirt Lissoclinum patella , produce two compounds called
    patellamide A and C, which are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

    Next, they pinpointed the gene pathways that the microbes used to make these

    Researcher Dr Eric Schmidt said: “Coral reefs and other ocean environments
    are like rainforests – full of natural chemicals to potentially treat human

    “Unfortunately, it’s difficult to supply pharmaceuticals from these delicate
    environments. We have solved this by finding specific genes for the synthesis of
    chemicals using laboratory bacteria.”


    Their Prochloron genome project – in collaboration with Margo Haygood
    at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San
    Diego – is still under way.

    Dr Matthew Fletcher, lecturer in Organic Chemistry at the University of
    Wales, UK, and member of the Society of Chemical Industry, said: “This is a step
    forward towards simpler, sustainable methods – using a combination of chemical
    and microbiological techniques – for the production of “drugs from the deep”
    that avoid the harvesting and destruction of unsustainably large quantities of
    marine organisms.

    “The marine environment is a realm of biological and chemical diversity, and
    the marine organisms that live in it are a rich source of intriguing and unusual
    molecules with the potential to become powerful drugs.

    “However, these molecules are usually present in minute quantities in rare

    “So instead of diving for these ‘pearls’ of great price – ravaging the marine
    environment – we need to develop sustainable methods for the production of