There’s something in the water. A cornucopia of life flourishes within our planet’s oceans, and this hidden world might hold the cure to some of today’s most devastating diseases. Take the recently developed cancer drug, trabectedin: it comes from the humble sea squirt and was discovered during a burst of marine bioprospecting – searching the seas for natural products that might cure human ills. This underwater scavenger hunt has yielded 10,000 products in the last two decades and provided countless avenues for new drug development research. Taq polymerase – a heat-resistant DNA-forming enzyme that is today a crucial lab tool used in DNA analysis techniques – was first found in bacteria crowding around deep-water vents. A tropical sea snail gave the world the popular painkiller ziconotide. The list is ever-growing, and with unknown depths still to be plundered, we might be on the crest of a tidal wave of discoveries.
Written by Anthony Lewis
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.