Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sponging up the mess

"Healing powers for one of the world's deadliest diseases may lie within sponges, sea worms and other underwater creatures." Malaria, a blood-parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, kills nearly a million people each year and infects hundreds-of-thousands of humans. The battle against this deadly disease has forced scientists to look in unlikely places for a cure. Now, they're even looking in depths of the sea.

"University of Central Florida scientist Debopam Chakrabarti is analyzing more than 2,500 samples from marine organisms collected off deep sea near Florida's coast. Some of them could hold the key to developing drugs to fight malaria". Nothing has been proven yet, but Chakarabarti is optimistic. "One active sample" that he tested, "derived from a marine sponge, contained the compound Nortopsentin. Because of this compound's initial promise" at combating disease, Chakrabarti has "already filed an application for patent protection." With assistance from two graduate students, Chakrabarti has "conducted preliminary testing of more than 2,500 samples from the Harbor Branch collection. They conducted tests to evaluate growth inhibitory properties of these samples for malaria parasite growing inside human red blood cells in culture."

Chakrabarti's approach of looking to marine sources for disease treatment is not new. He follows in the footsteps of modern scientists and ancient medics.

In the meantime, Chakrabarti is concerned how the Gulf of Mexico's oil spill will affect his work. "He's also concerned...that the...oil spill may wipe out species that could hold healing properties for many deadly diseases."

"If we can find two or three good molecules that can be easily synthesized in a lab and that can prevent malaria, I'd be very happy," he said.

University of Central Florida (2010, June 28). Underwater sponges and worms may hold key to cure for malaria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 30, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/06/100628124601.htm

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