Japanese wireweed Sargassum muticum, an enormous seaweed that arrived in Britain as a stowaway on oysters, is wreaking havoc in coastal waters. It’s blamed for clogging marinas, snagging boat propellers and harming native ecosystems so vigorous efforts have been made to eradicate it. But the wireweed (pictured) may possess an invaluable secret. Used in traditional Chinese medicine, this slimy invader is thought to possess useful medicinal compounds. It contains algin and fucoidan, which could act as preventative medicines for heart disease and stroke. Researchers from the University of Greenwich are embarking on a research programme aiming to unlock its pharmaceutical potential, while freeing up swathes of the British coast. More than half the medicines used in healthcare have their origins in natural products. Will Japanese wireweed be another?
Written by Nick Kennedy
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