Oceanic Cornucopia

Compound in nudibranchs toxic to cancer cell lines

Natural products play an invaluable role as a starting point in the drug discovery process, and plants and animals use many interesting biologically active natural products as chemical defence mechanisms against predators. Among marine organisms, many nudibranch gastropods are known to obtain toxins from what they are eating, such as sponges.

These toxins are used as chemical defences and bright colours to warn potential predators away,

Common littoral crab (Carcinus maenas)

Crab shell compound makes wounds heal faster

In ancient China crabs were smashed open and thrust into wounds in battles because chitosan is antimicrobial, meaning it heals and kills bacteria.

Chitosan's properties allow it to rapidly clot blood and promote hemostasis (stops bleeding). Chitosan bonds with platelets and red blood cells to form a gel-like clot which seals a bleeding vessel.

Synoicum adareanum pictured with a starfish in 80 feet of water near Bonaparte Point, Antarctica.
Synoicum adareanum pictured with a starfish in 80 feet of water near Bonaparte Point, Antarctica.

Possible cancer drug discovered in a sea squirt

A naturally produced melanoma-fighting compound called "Palmerolide A" has been found in a microbe that lives in Synoicum adareanum, a species of ascidian common to the waters of Antarctica's Anvers Island archipelago, where it grows in small colonies.

Ascidians, or "sea squirts," are primitive, sac-like marine animals that live attached to ocean bottoms around the world, and feed on plankton by filtering seawater.

Echinoderms are a renewable resource with an economic value due to their increasing demand as food and/or source of bioactive molecules exerting antitumor, antiviral, anticoagulant, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities.

Sea Urchin Could Help Cure Diseases

A purple sea urchin has 70 percent of its genes in common with humans, including genes associated with such diseases as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and muscular dystrophy.

There are roughly 100 human disease genes in the sea urchin genome.

Researchers said they believe similarities in the genes of sea urchins could one day help them better understand how the human immune system works.

Atlantic Cod
Atlantic Cod

Atlantic cod survive without 'vital' immune genes, say scientists

According to an analysis of the Atlantic cod’s genome, scientists have discovered the fish have evolved to survive without a set of genes thought essential to the immune system. It is hoped the finding will lead to better vaccines for farmed cod and even open new avenues of medical research for human disease.