Geographical

LIFE-SAVING RESOURCES

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Deep-sea environmen­ts are appealing to some for the wealth of minerals and metals they contain, but they harbour another potentiall­y valuable resource. The distinct metabolism­s and unique survival skills of deepsea creatures make these ecosystems a potential hotspot for natural products that could one day be utilised in new medicines. Scientists have already discovered a microbe from a deep-sea sponge that kills pathogenic bugs in the laboratory and could offer a breakthrou­gh in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, as well as being a good source of anti-cancer drugs. Studies have shown that marine invertebra­tes in general produce more antibiotic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammato­ry substances than any group of terrestria­l organisms. As it can take up to a decade for a new discovery to become a medicine, scientists working in this field are invariably opposed to deep-sea mining, pointing to the risk of destroying habitats that could harbour life-saving organic materials.

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