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Seaweed found in Hawaii contains compounds that could treat human diseases such as arthritis.
Seaweed that is destroying coral reefs in Hawaii has been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The seaweed was noticed during a routine survey of the coral when researchers found that it was smothering corals in popular dive sites.
Tests done on the seaweed revealed that it was generating natural products called honaucins, which have potent anti-inflammation and bacteria-controlling properties.
These properties could be used to combat human diseases such as arthritis. Arthritis affects 18% of the Australian population, about 3.85 million people, and there is currently no cure for the condition.
The researchers have shown that cyanobacteria can be used as an effective topical anti-inflammatory ointment for mice. The lead researcher on the case, Professor William Gerwick, said, “It’s a long road to go from this early-stage discovery to application in the clinic, but it’s the only road if we want new and more efficacious medicines.”
A study released in the latest issue of Chemistry & Biology described the findings of researchers at UC San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
A co-author of the study, Lena Gerwick, said the fact that the seaweed was overtaking the coral indicated that it had ecological advantages over the coral.
One explanation was that the cyanobacteria was killing a beneficial film of bacteria that usually covers the coral and protects it from diseases and pathogens. Another explanation was that cyanobacteria was inhibiting the coral’s immune system, making it susceptible to attack.
Researchers believe this seaweed could also be used in future medicines to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart trouble.
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