Because of biodiversity, many potential cures of currently “incurable” diseases have perhaps been lost in the sea and in marine life. According to Dr. Hank Trapido-Rosenthal of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Incorporated (BBSR) and his key partners: Dr. Stephen Giovannoni of Oregon State University, and Dr. Craig Carlson of the University of California, Santa Barbara (Partnership with Diversa), “this diversity has existed for 3 billion years.” The staggering potential of extracting beneficial chemicals pharmaceutically is today greatly enhanced by such advanced technology as “cloning.”
The health of the ocean itself and the health of marine organisms is important and even though only a fraction of one percent of these sea organisms have been tapped, the medical and economic value of these have been vast. So, the remaining 99%, yet to be classified, gives new hope. Perhaps pharmaceutical benefits can be found among the yet, unclassified marine life.
Sea creatures have survived for three million years despite temperatures above boiling and below freezing. They have been unclassified for the most part. They have also survived salt concentrations from almost “0” to 10 times the salinity of seawater. They have endured pressures from 20,000 feet below sea level to 20,000 feet above. They have lived through energy sources: sunlight, sulfur and petroleum. Consider that this may be a vast source of pharmaceuticals.
Aquaculture (the Farming of the Sea) may lead to pharmaceutical benefits as well. Many sea creatures are known to be beneficial as well. Many sea creatures are known to be beneficial to man. Shellfish like clams, oysters, mussels and scallops offer much, as does the horseshoe crab. Sharks and whales give so much that laws protect these animals from being hunted to extinction.
Because new diseases and human activity worldwide threaten coral reefs, research programs are essential to identify stresses and develop techniques for the better management of these ecosystems. Dr. Richard Owens of the BBSR faculty received his Ph.D. for using stable isotopes in molluscan shells to establish seawater temperature records and productivity cycles. He is currently working on projects to assess the pesticide contamination of granddaughter and the coastal zone, the distribution and impact of heavy metal constituents in anti-fouling paints on inshore marine communities and the development of biomarkers for the assessment of marine pollution. Research is also being done in “Genomics” on benthic organisms such as sponges found in Bermuda’s shallower inshore waters.
Food- Drugs from the Sea Proceedings
(1969) tells of a “Drugs from the Sea” symposium in 1967. It generated a lot of interest in searching the sea for bioactive substances. For my purposes, I will cite some examples of already known pharmaceuticals extracted from marine animals, listed in this report.
All toxins have potential as drugs because of their action on cells. These molecules, as useful compounds, can reverse disease and increase the efficiency of the normal cell. Developing a new drug can be costly because its efficacy and lack of toxicity have to be proven before acceptance. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) must clear the drug for safety and the product must be better than an existing one on the market for it to be useful. Listings are taxonomical. Several Classification lessons will be given.
Monerans (one-celled organisms with no clearly defined nucleus):
- antibiotic, antifungal and antiyeast properties; growth stimulant, antitumor, inactivates viruses; Vitamin “B;” a bromine derivative which can be synthesized and may have survival significance
- studies being done on fatty acids, human food source
Protistans (one-celled organism with a clearly defined nucleus):
- food protein, growth stimulant, anticoagulant, includes sugars, sterols, lipids, nitrogen compounds, inhibitors of antibiotics, fatty acids, minerals, sodium alginate to be used for contamination removal of Sr 90, vaccine adjutant, dental impression substrates, treatment of esophagitis, immunologic responses, treatment of rheumatic diseases, anti-viral, mucilage
Invertebrates (animals having no backbone):
(sponges - most primitive of all multicellular animals) - antibiotics, growth regulators, better understanding of complex nervous systems, fights bacterial infections, phospholipids, combats microbial pollution from fecal contamination in estuaries.
Coelenterata (Cnidaria -sea animals that attach themselves to rock surfaces, pilings and shellfish) - immunity
Echinodermata (having the surface of the body covered with spines) - possible anti-tumor activity, tissue regeneration, sperm inactivation and egg maturation studies
- converting the crown of starfish into edible protein
- antifungal steroid
Mollusca (clams, oysters - animals with soft insides and hard shells) - studies on antineoplastic activity of clam liver extract; also prolongs the mean survival time of mice with leukemia
(worms) - insecticide
(joint-footed animals - crustaceans) - serotonin and crustacean diabetogenic hormone
- cement, gluefilling for teeth
Vertebrates (animals having a backbone):
- Vitamin “A” and”D,” viz. cod liver oil; viz. Shark liver oil; catfish - follicle stimulating hormone
vertebrates produce interferon. There are also the pharmacological effects of eptratretin, in support of the failing heart. Fish are alsoused in mosquito control. They ingest them.
(frogs, toads, newts - live on land and in the water) - perhaps these studies will lead to cell regeneration; peptides are active on smooth muscles.
(snakes, lizards, turtles - creep and crawl):
- Southeast Asian studies related to immunization are being pursued.
venom is being studied because of it anticancerous enzymes; anticoagulant and coagulant activity.
Drugs and foreign compounds are similar in both the advanced and primitive water dwelling species.