Scientists have found that chemical compounds found in 'nuisance' seaweed could one day help to treat arthritis.
This special type of seaweed, which is found in Hawaii, may also be able to help treat other chronic diseases, from Alzheimer's to cancer and even heart trouble.
The organisms, called 'Cyanobac-teria', produce chemical compounds that have been found promising as an anti-inflammatory agent and in tackling bacterial infection.
The lives of at least 10 million -people in Britain are blighted by arthritis, which is not only a painful experience, but also an incurable condition, which is caused by inflammation of the joints.
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography began investigating the seaweed as it was killing off Hawaii's coral reefs, reported the Daily Express.
To their surprise they discovered the chemicals damaging the coral could be used to treat human disease.
"In different arenas these compounds could be helpful, such as treating chronic inflammatory conditions for which we currently don't have really good medicines," said the institution's William Gerwick, professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences.
Scientists identified the "nuisance" organism for the first time in 2008 threatening the reefs next to a national park off the Kona coast of Hawaii.
The 'Cyanobacterium' is believed to be native to the islands and is usually not noticeable.
Researchers found that the seaweed was 'smothering' the reefs at popular dive sites.
It also appeared that the 'Cyanobacteria' were releasing a chemical that was bleaching the coral.
Samples were retrieved in 2009 and transferred to the University for further analysis.
Various laboratory tests were carried out and the research team discovered that the seaweed called "Leptolyngbya Crosbyana' - generates natural products known as 'Honaucins' with potent anti-inflammation and bacteria-controlling properties.he substances were found to obstruct bacteria's ability to "swarm" over surfaces.
"It's a long road to go from this early-stage discovery to application in the clinic but it's the only road if we want new and more efficacious medicines," said Gerwick
"I think this finding is a nice illustration of how we need to look more deeply in our environment because even nuisance pests, as it turns out, are not just pests
"Several species of 'Cyanobacteria' and algae are known to produce novel compounds, many that have promising use in drug development for human and other uses. These organisms have been on the planet for millions of years and so it is not surprising that they have evolved numerous strategies for competing with neighboring species, including chemical warfare," Assistant Professor Jennifer Smith added.
Prior research has revealed that seaweed is packed with vital micronutrients. It has been developed into anti-obesity treatments because consuming it makes people feel full and seaweed granules have also been hailed as a healthier alternative to salt.
The latest study, which has been published in the journal Chemistry and Biology, will bring hope to the millions of people left in constant agony by arthritis.