Marine-based drugs: new treasures from the sea

Research in medicine and pharmacology is always seeking new solutions that may come from any area of research. The sea, for example, has always been a source of livelihood for the human race, but recently a new treasure from the deep has been discovered. Recent studies have revealed the possibility of creating marine-based drugs and there are currently 23 drugs of marine origin being tested. 

Interest in marine-based drugs knows no limits

In 2015, the important, new PharmaSea project was launched involving thirteen countries. The main goal of the project is to scope the seas to uncover new molecules with therapeutic properties, especially for neurodegenerative diseases and that can fight viruses, bacteria and inflammation. The institutions representing Italy in the project are the Institute of Protein Biochemistry CNR and the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station in Naples, which have the task of studying plankton and analyzing thousands of microalgae for molecules that could be used in the production of new, revolutionary marine-based drugs.  In addition to PharmaSea, there are many other research projects being carried out all over the world to study the seas for new marine-based drugs. 

Laboratories in Norway and Scotland have achieved great results, even though we must wait for the end of the trial to determine the effectiveness of the possible new drug. Moving towards the Indian Ocean, instead, where drug resistance has become a matter of great concern, studies have revealed that hydramacine-1 peptide derived from hydrozoans (a type of organism related to jellyfish) is very useful in fighting bacteria resistant to penicillin, such as Escherichia coli. Other marine-based drugs have been demonstrated to be effective, such as trabectedin,

an antitumor agent derived from a marine source, the Caribbean tunicate Ecteinascidia turbinata. For this reason, the international scientific community has shown great interest in the potential of marine elements. 

Protecting biodiversity for the future of research

Research has made much progress in extracting and isolating elements and in all other technologies involved in the study of marine-based drugs, allowing in a short period of time an increase in the number of molecules being experimented on in clinical studies. Six types of therapeutic agents of marine origin have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the complete pipeline includes 23 different compounds. These molecules are considered precious resources due to their chemical diversity, giving us even more reason to protect the seas and their biodiversity. The seas are a priceless resource for the research of new antimicrobial compounds, but climate change greatly alters their ecosystem with great risks for an environment capable of providing such interesting elements for pharmaceuticals. If the scientific community is responsible for researching new cures, then governments, administrations and individual citizens are responsible for protecting the environment they live in as well as each form of life within it.  Marine-based drugs demonstrate how living beings on Earth are all connected. Damaging one impacts all the others. If the precious molecules present in the seas should be destroyed, an important branch of research in medicine would be destroyed along with it.

© Domedica s.r.l.

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