Marine organisms: Potential source for drug discovery.
Life has originated from the oceans that cover over 70% of the earth’s surface and contain highly ecological, chemical and biological diversity starting from microorganisms to vertebrates. This diversity has been the source of unique chemical compounds, which hold tremendous pharmaceutical potential. New trends in drug discovery from natural sources emphasize on investigation of the marine ecosystem to explore numerous complex and novel chemical entities. Among the first bioactive compounds from marine sources, spongouridine and spongothymidine from the Caribbean sponge (Cryptotheca crypta), were isolated serendipitously in the early 1950s. They were approved as an anticancer drug (cytosine arabinoside, Ara-C) and an antiviral drug (adenine arabinoside, Ara-A), respectively, 15 years later. The secondary metabolites of marine organisms have been studied extensively over the past 30 years, since a small number of academic chemists began to isolate and elucidate novel compounds from marine sources in the 1970’s. Drug discovery research from marine organisms has been accelerating and now involves interdisciplinary research including biochemistry, biology, ecology, organic chemistry, and pharmacology. These entities are the sources of new leads for treatment of many diseases such as cancer, AIDS, inflammatory conditions, and a large variety of viral, bacterial and fungal diseases. Because of the highly chemical and physical harsh conditions in marine environment, the organisms produce a variety of molecules with unique structural features and exhibit various types of biological activities. Majority of the marine natural products have been isolated from sponges, coelenterates (sea whips, sea fans and soft corals), tunicates, opisthobranch molluscs (nudibranchs, sea hares, etc.), echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, etc.) and bryozoans (moss animals) . Sponges, the most primitive multicellular invertebrates,...
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