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An underwater drugstore?
Date:2/26/2009

must rely on the flow of water through their bodies to collect food and to remove waste. This has led to a unique adaptive response to enemies and competition. Sponges don't have teeth, or shells, but protect themselves by building associations and partnerships with bacteria and fungi. Tel Aviv University is tapping into these relationships looking at the same chemicals that the sponge uses for defense to fight infection in humans.

Research Combines Several Fields of Study

Drug developers have known for decades about the potential goldmine of pharmaceuticals in the marine environment, particularly among sedentary life like marine sponges.

"One of the major problems is that these novel and natural compounds are found in very small quantities," Prof. Ilan explains. Collecting and extracting such large amounts of these unique chemicals would require huge quantities of animals to be sacrificed, a practice which is not in line with zoological conservationist values. So Prof. Ilan takes cultures from sea sponges with minimal damage to the natural environment. He then grows their symbionts and tests them in a "wet" laboratory. The methods Prof. Ilan has perfected can now be used by other scientists developing pharmaceuticals from marine sponges.

"Our research is unique in that we take both an agricultural and microbiological approach ― not found often in the drug discovery community," says Prof. Ilan, whose work is done in collaboration with the School of Chemistry's Prof. Yoel Kashman and Prof. Shmuel Carmeli.


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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