Natural products derived from marine animals may have potential use in anti-cancer therapies, a new study has suggested. These products may also help improve drug delivery.
The study led by experts from Aberdeen, Luxembourg, and the South Pacific focussed on finding compounds which interfere with a protein termed NF-kB, which is known to have a critical role in many types of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and asthma.
"We have tested a large number of marine species to see which can prevent NF-kB from working," said Professor Marcel Jaspars from the University of Aberdeen, who presented the study at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille on Monday.
"A few animals, including sponges, soft corals and sea lilies, were examined further, and from these we have been able to isolate and characterise the compounds responsible. We have shown that one of these molecules is able to allow normal cell death (which NK-kB switches off in some cancerous cells) to start up again, a property which we will be going onto study in much more detail," the researcher added.
The researcher also said that there was another possible application of molecules isolated from marine creatures that had the potential to have just as great an impact on the development of new medicines.
"It is an unfortunate reality that currently, many new excellent drugs are discovered that cannot be delivered effectively to the places where they are required," Professor Jaspars said.
"However, we have isolated one compound from a Mediterranean sponge that may help to end this trend. This molecule can reversibly create pores in cell membranes, a property for we envisage vast possibilities in the transportation of medicinal drugs. As we can now make this compound in the lab in large quantities, we are now able to investigate possible applications of the molecule, including drug delivery into tumours, gene delivery for cystic fibrosis and delivery of drugs into the eye," the researcher added.