Ocean drugs

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Hunt for natural products from marine organisms for the next generation of drugs, has intensified as sources on land begin to dry up. As the marine microbial environment is very rich, because it's never been exploited before, it's a natural place to look.

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Why should I be aware of this?

  • Researchers say most of the existing drugs on the market are losing their effectiveness, since most of them are derived from soil bacteria hence researchers feel that the ocean is a new place to look for miracle drugs
  • More than 1 million microorganisms fill every milliliter of seawater. Each one could lead to a life-saving treatment for some of our deadliest diseases. Many marine organisms are already in development to benefit humans. [1]

All about ocean drugs

Fifty percent of drugs made for humans are derived in some way from nature. But scientists started turning towards the ocean for drug source in the 1970s when it was realized that terrestrial microorganisms had been thoroughly explored.

The marine microbial environment is very rich, because it has never been exploited before. The ocean contains unique organisms with special chemical properties not seen on land. Close to 25 drugs derived from marine life — such as bacteria, sponges, and tunicates — are currently in clinical trials. [2]

Unusual survival strategies

Ocean creatures have unusual survival strategies born out of severe ocean environments of little to no light and extremely cold temperatures. According to scientists, such survival strategies also fight diseases in people equally effectively. Some marine organisms produce population-control compounds that work in similar way with humans. Instead of reducing the number of offspring, the compounds inhibit the growth of malignant tumors.

Early search for ocean medicine centered on antibiotics and cancer-cell killers. Over the years and some marine organisms, such as sponges and fungi, have been discovered which contain compounds that can inhibit an enzyme in the body secreted by a type of tumor called indoleamine-2, 3-dioxygenase. The enzyme tricks the body into not attacking the tumor.

But marine bioprospecting is still to become a big time effort. This is primarily because, big pharmaceutical companies have not yet got on board. But it's only a matter of time before marine drugs take off.

CopperBytes

  • Leading-edge anti-inflammatory drugs and potentially life-saving cancer treatments contain ingredients from fish and marine organisms.
  • Many of the foods you eat contain compounds derived from marine life.

90 degrees

Aquarius, the world's only undersea laboratory, was reinstalled 63 feet deep in the ocean in late 1997, off the Florida Keys. It allows aquanaut-scientists to live and work continuously underwater for 10 days, while conducting experiments.

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Additional information

References:

  • Drugs from the depths of the ocean
  • Blockbuster Ocean Drugs on the Horizon?
  • Oil Platforms, Deep Seas Mined for New Drugs

Source

  1. Bio-Medicine
  2. National Geographic