Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Uses of Marine Life in Traditional Medicine

http://cockerspaniel-vom-werratal.de/assets/cone-snail-shellUses of Marine Life in Traditional Medicine

As scientists struggle to find different medicines and methods of healing the various pathologies humans encounter today,  marine biology has risen as one of the most promising areas of research.  The ecosystem on the ocean floor has reached a physical balance between oceanic species (invertebrates and fish) and their bacteria that can be envied by humans.  Their bacteria are better able to fight off disease without adversely affecting body systems, and as our knowledge of oceanic species is ever increasing, this area has much potential.

The antibiotics we presently have access to have proven to be effective in fighting illness for decades, but more and more strains of disease are proving resistant.  This has stimulated much research to find new medicine. The Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Cooperative Biodiversity Group focuses specifically on this and has conducted numerous studies that have provided us with useful information about promising treatments.

In a recent study. Oregon Health & Science University, through its relationship with the PMSICBG, is pursuing research to combat the fall of effectiveness in medicines.  In one study, shipworms, a type of mollusk, were researched "because of “the animals' creative use of bacteria to convert wood -- a poor food source lacking proteins or nitrogen -- into a suitable food" (1). This study revealed that shipworms also use a specific bacteria that has the potential of acting as a strong antibiotic for humans.

Another study on mollusks by researchers at the University of Utah shows promise for a new pain medication. Although cone snails were originally assumed as having less effective bacteria because of their strong venom and hard, protective shell, they have been found to possess a bacteria that is neuroactive (affects nerve cells) and has the potential of offering pain relief.

Both of these studies were conducted to learn more about these creatures, but discovered much more valuable information. This shows that new and more effective medicines for preexisting diseases may already exist and even be accessible to scientists. Through pursuing learning more about the unknown, we may soon be able to cure illnesses with which many of us have battles for years.

(1) Oregon Health & Science University (2013, January 29). Tomorrow's life-saving medications may currently be living at the bottom of the sea. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/01/130129130949.htm

posted by Ashley Sterpka1(1)

Addendum (posted by Ashley Sterpka on 2/10/13 in addition to comment replies):

Sharks are also being explored as having potential genetic information  that may act as a treatment for cancer.  As they have cartilage and no bones, they are not subject to tumor growth and metastasis.  Many sharks have been known to live over one hundred years, and you are often able to purchase vitamins which contain shark cartilage.  This is yet another area of marine research which has the potential of medicine and treatment for disease.  

 
 

6 comments:

  1. This post touches on a very important aspect of human medicine that many people overlook or are completely unaware of. This is that a huge percentage of human drugs and medical resources come from natural sources. It also highlights the importance of doing biological research in diverse (and sometimes seemingly unimportant) areas. This is because many big discoveries happen by accident, and we often do not know where in nature we might find the next medically or technological important resource. Do you think that if people in general were more aware of this, we would see stronger public suppport for this type of research, as well as support for stronger conservation efforts?

    Posted by Sean McDougall

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    2. You are very right in saying that a large number of the medicines we presently have come from natural resources. If more people were aware of this, it is conceivable that there would be much more funding and support for this type of research. As more people learn about the potential uses of natural resources, I think there will not only be more pursuit of research, but also more care enforced on the environment.

      posted by Ashley Sterpka

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  2. Gabrielle Wertheim (3)February 7, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    I completely agree with Sean's comment, this post does touch on a very important and usually unnoticed fact that a very large percentage of human drugs are created by natural resources. Ultimately, I think that this post is very important in order to help raise awareness to the scientific society that all though it is believed that everything around us will kill us eventually. It actually may be the opposite, and that maybe after all, the natural resources we surround ourselves with everyday could have actually been the cure for Cancer or other untreatable diseases.

    Posted by Gabrielle Wertheim (3)

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    1. You bring up an important obstacle that has most likely prevented more new research than anything else. Fear of the unknown creates much hesitation and oftentimes complete dismissal of new theories and ideas. This knowledge about the extreme potential in ocean life and other natural resources will, although valid, only become sought after once more individuals grow comfortable with the fact that the number of things we do not know is still great in comparison to that with that which we are already familiar.
      posted by Ashley Sterpka

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  3. I love this kind of research, using nature's resources to overcome nature's obstacles. There is so much around us that is an untapped source of knowledge and sanctuary, but just like the use of stem cells, I believe a bit of fear prevents us from exploring our capabilities. One thing I hope we can learn about and research is regeneration like that of the starfish or salamander because it would be incredibly useful to harness that kind of potential; it would be greatly appreciated in the medical field and even on the battlefield. I know that we can currently create organs from scratch in the lab.

    Nick Mulone

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