Medicine from the Sea
Conservation Ecology ENVS 201
Sea Changes: Medicine from the Sea
This was truly an amazing video that really made me realize just how amazing this planet really is, along with the special human beings that inhabit it. I know that sounds a little corny, but I don’t really know any other way of putting it. So many questions start to creep into my head after seeing something so incredible come from something that has been on this earth for how long? It really makes me think that we have only tapped into the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of what is waiting to be discovered. The movie starts out in the mountains of Hardangervidda, Norway where the story of biological treasures started in the middle of nowhere. The Swiss scientist Dr. Hans Peter Frey, a Sandoz biologist, stopped to take a photo and the result ended up saving thousands of lives. Dr. Hans collected a small sample from the soil which eventually produced the drug called “cyclosporine”. This drug reduces the risk of organ rejections after transplant surgeries and has revolutionized these procedures. The immunosuppressive effect of cyclosporine was discovered on January 31, 1972 by employees of Sandoz in Basel, Switzerland, in a screening test on immune suppression designed and implemented by Hartmann F. Stahelin, M.D. The success of cyclosporine in preventing organ rejection was shown in kidney transplants and in liver transplants. Cyclosporine was approved for use in 1983. Since then, it has been used to prevent and treat graft-versus-host reactions in bone marrow transplantation and to prevent rejection of kidney, heart, and liver transplants. Next the film transitions from land to the sea because most of the Earth’s biodiversity is in its oceans. Pharmaceutical researchers are actively exploring the oceans I search of new substances that might be used to treat or cure diseases. Over 200,000 species of invertebrates and algae have been identified, and this number is estimated to be only a small fraction of what is yet to be discovered. This immense biodiversity yields great chemical diversity. When working with potential pharmaceuticals this becomes extremely important, more chemically diverse substances are more suitable. Many of these chemicals have cancer fighting potential. Many sessile organisms emit chemicals to prevent others from evading their space. Often times these chemicals are used to slow and prevent cell growth of surrounding sponges. It is believed that the same chemicals these organisms let out when competing for space can be used to stop the uncontrolled division of cancer cells. Discodermolide is a polypeptide isolated from deep water sponges (Discodermia), which stops the reproduction of cancer cells by disrupting the microtubule network partially responsible for the movement of cells. Another huge discovery from the ocean is the use of algae to create drugs to fight cancer. Algae blooms can be disastrous for fish farming operations, but the marine organisms show incredible promise for fighting cancer. A substance in algae might be useful in the fight against leukemia. Algae are processed in a laboratory to isolate substances that might have cancer-fighting properties. Blue green algae is a form of microalgae phytoplankton that differs from spirulina in that is prefers fresh water as opposed to brackish salty water. Many of the properties were discovered accidentally for instance, researchers were examining some algae’s effect on another kind of cell when the cancer researcher, Stein Ove D Skeland happened to look in the microscope. D Skeland: Just by chance, I happened to look in the microscope at the cells and I saw that even these normal hepatocytes are undergoing hypotonic cell death. Then we understood that these types of substances were produced, microsystin, also by cyanobacteria. If this substance can give cell death in hepatocytes,...
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