Marine medicine

A new report has identified three marine organisms that may be useful for biomedical research, potentially leading to new treatments for human diseases.


The US Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has released a report that identifies three marine organisms that may be useful for biomedical research – potentially leading to new treatments for human diseases.


Under a research agreement sponsored by MMS, University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers studied marine organisms collected from offshore oil and gas platforms in California’s Santa Barbara Channel and found that two invertebrate species contain compounds that inhibit the division of cancer cells grown in the laboratory.


Additionally, a compound isolated from algae collected from oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico has been shown to block cell division and enhance the activity of the cancer drug Taxol.


The report is the result of a research initiative between the MMS and UCSB that examined pharmaceutical applications of marine organisms growing on offshore oil and gas structures along California’s coast.


The compound produced by the algae may have similar activities that would make it a candidate for use as a cancer chemotherapeutic.


UCSB researchers state that while the results are highly promising, years of additional research are needed to isolate and purify the compounds and to assess their application for the treatment of cancer or other diseases.


Regardless of the final outcome of the research, the discovery validates their approach of continuing to identify potentially useful organisms that have established a habitat on offshore oil platforms.


The study, which began in 2001, cost approximately $1m and was co-funded equally by the MMS and UCSB.


The final report is available from the Minerals Management Service website at: http://www.mms.gov/omm/pacific/