Sci­en­tists look to sea for cures

Cape Argus - - METRO - Staff Re­porter

RE­SEARCH to de­ter­mine whether a chem­i­cal sub­stance found in sea sponges can cure cancer and malaria is un­der way at UWC.

The re­search is try­ing to find nano-par­ti­cles that can de­liver ma­rine chem­i­cal com­pounds di­rectly to cancer cells so that they do not ad­versely af­fect nor­mal cells.

A re­view ar­ti­cle in the South African Jour­nal of Science this week overviewed how a po­tent chem­i­cal sub­stance pro­duced by a group of sponges known as la­trun­culid sponges could pos­sess not only anti-cancer and an­ti­malar­ial prop­er­ties, but anti-mi­cro­bial prop­er­ties as well.

This chem­i­cal sub­stance serves as a feed­ing de­ter­rent to preda­tors and gives these sponges their colour.

How­ever, these toxic chem­i­cal com­pounds do not just tar­get cancer cells or malaria par­a­sites, they were found to be toxic to nor­mal cells as well.

Au­thored by Pro­fes­sor Michael Davies-Colema, UWC Dean of Nat­u­ral Sci­ences Fac­ulty, Pro­fes­sor Edith An­tunes, Pro­fes­sor Den­zil Beukes and Dr Toufiek Sa­maai, this ar­ti­cle re­viewed nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury of work on lantrun­culid sponges and their chem­istry, as part of the ma­rine di­ver­sity pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme was ini­ti­ated at Rhodes Univer­sity.

Davies-Cole­man said: “Due to the pos­si­ble bio­med­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions of ma­rine sponges and other ma­rine in­ver­te­brates, our ar­ti­cle high­lights the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing South Africa’s unique ma­rine in­ver­te­brate re­sources.” |

SCI­EN­TISTS are look­ing at sea sponges as a cure for cancer and malaria.

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