If these patients are exposed to everyday fungi that exist all around us, like bread mold or yeast, they can develop dangerous—even life-threatening— lung infections.
Wright says it makes perfect sense that a sponge would have chemicals to fight off predators, since it’s anchored to the ocean floor and can’t run away from natural predators or pathogens. So over time they have evolved to make homemade poisons to fight their enemies. The researchers believe sponge extracts can be developed into therapies that are less toxic to humans than current remedies and produce wider ranging results.
John Allingham, a researcher at University of Wisconsin-Madison agrees. “These marine toxins can knock out the lynch pins in long chains of cancer cell growth or cap their ends and kill cancer cells. Moreover, initial work shows that even a low dose of these toxins can bring a significant response.”
Similarly, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego have shown for the first time that deep ocean sediments are a significant biomedical resource for microbes that produce antibiotic molecules. The new compound is a potent inhibitor of cancer growth, including human colon cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and most effectively, breast cancer.
“This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg of diverse chemical formulas that are out there,” said William Fenical, a professor and director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps.
While studying sea creatures in Fijian waters, scientists in Luxembourg and the South Pacific discovered the marine life not only have certain anti-cancer compounds that can be used in therapy, but others may also be useful for improving drug delivery, currently one of the most significant problems faced by medical researchers.
The team focused on finding compounds that interfere with a particular protein known to have a critical role in many cancer types, as well as other diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and asthma.