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How Potential Cancer Curing Organisms are Found and Harvested from the Oceans

Updated on April 18, 2012
Discodermia Sponge
Discodermia Sponge

Medicine from the Oceans

Beneath the waters in the Oceans scientists search for miracle drugs. In the oceans world-wide there could be a cure for cancer. Of all the new species found they have no idea what they harbor inside. Geological formations in the ocean, opens the way to nature's medicine chest by new exploration. New organisms found in the oceans produce medicines that are already in testing and trials. Hopefully producing new drugs medicines from Marine microbiology. Is this next frontier for medical science?


A sponge with the name Discodermia was discovered in 1987. Discovered on a scientific cruise. Incredibly it produced a powerful new agent against cancers that had grown resistant to chemotherapy. There are hundreds of new compounds undergoing new tests and new trials from the ocean. Some are commercially available already, a painkiller which it is 1000 times more powerful than morphine. It is derived from the saliva from the cone snail. The antiviral drug named Acyclovir derived from sea sponges, appears to fight herpes. Compounds from the mollusk are being tested against tumors.

Microbes and bacteria in the deep-sea sediments or sponges, they all contain chemical compounds that may be very useful to mankind. There is hope that many of these compounds can be used to treat human diseases.

In areas of the ocean there are pristine areas that are not polluted and are untouched, and make great areas for finding new species, to possibly be used in medicine.

The sponges harbor the greatest potential for finding new medicines. Right now they know of over 7000 species, and they are literally untouched for finding new medicines. There is many new species out there to be discovered also.

Sponges have been on planet Earth for over 600 million years. The porous Marine animals were among the first on earth to develop cellular structures. They are also extreme survivors. Sponges are very primitive not because of their age but because of also their evolutionary history. Any organisms that was attached to the bottom of the ocean would have to develop a defense mechanism. They have to defend themselves against something that wants to eat them, they have to defend themselves against someone who wants the same space that they're in. Sponges need to develop some kind of defense, some kind of chemical so if that another sponge decides to go over the top of me, the existing such sponge would send out some kind of chemical, to kill the cells that were trying to invade.

So the chemicals that are being released by one organism, would kill other organisms that would be growing on top of the existing organism, this could possibly be useful in cancer drugs. These defenses that scientists are trying to discover, could be one the greatest discoveries of all time.

There is a lot more in the ocean than just sponges to test. There is algae, sea fans and much more that hold the potential for science, to possibly find scientific break through for medicines to help humans.

Half of the pharmaceuticals that are available today, are in some form related to natural products. Mother nature can produce these, that humans have not been able to reproduce.

60 years ago humans found a natural mold called penicillin that was found to cure people of various infections, and was an amazing breakthrough.

The all-purpose pain reliever aspirin, comes from tree bark named White Willow, which is avaible in a supplement also. While humans search for centuries for cures, nature has been at work producing them for hundreds of millions of years.

70% of the world is covered with oceans, there is so much territory for scientists to investigate and come up with many possibilities to discover new areas, with new species, for potential medical drugs.

To reach some of these areas that are undiscovered, sometimes a submersible has to be used, to dive very deep to collect species samples. This is very expensive and time-consuming.

With a device similar to a fishfinder, scientists try to isolate at bottom areas of the ocean, with the areas may look like, and plan the submersible dives at times with that information.

But there's only one way for them to know what is really at the bottom, and that is physically going there with the submersible.
Sometimes scientists have to wait years to get access to a submersible, so when the opportunity arises that scientists can go down it is very well-planned.

The submersible goes down about 100 feet feet per minute, and usually takes about 15 min. to get to the areas they would like to get to.

Natural slopes and rocky structures create a vast pinnacle for species diversement. These areas can have a vast amount of biodiversity. They are covered with sponges and all different species, and go down about 3000 feet. These conditions are prime conditions for scientists look for and to find new species. The scientist documents all their dives and submersibles adventures by narration, videotape and using other scientific tools. Rocks the are at the bottom and grow different organisms such as sea fans, tent to have the tender have the toxic compounds that scientists are looking for.

The scientists collect their target species very carefully, and must manuever through the current, and keep their samples in excellent condition that they retrieve.

Most often times when the scientists go out on a cruise to find new species. They will launch submersible dives twice a day, as they usually go out on two weeks scientific intervals.

On these dives the scientists encounter visual observations of species, that they would never see in textbooks.

One of the most significant finds to date is a sponge called disocdermalyde. Which is now in human clinical trials. It now has a patent, and is being tested on humans. The chemical that is produced from the sponge the disco derma lied, discovered by Shirley and John Reid in 1987. They found that the toxins that the disco derma produces to chase off predators and the sea, could also kill human cancer cells.

Discodermia sponge is found in different forms, like a flat pancake, and the other with fingers growing on a hand.

They are also doing more research on the Discodermia, to see if there is are other organisms living on the Discodermia, that may be producing the toxins. So there is a possibility, that the Discodermia is not acting alone and producing the toxins by itself. It could be interacting with a yet an undiscovered microscopic organism.

There is a possibility that interaction could be the source of the real toxin helping with cancer.

In closing an interesting fact is that scientists call the depth or area where they find the Discodermia "the dead zone", nothing grows there, but the Discodermia sponge.



sources: allthesea.com
sources: wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prehistoric_sponges


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    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 4 years ago

      Very interesting info. Never knew such kind of sponge can cure cancer.

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