Navigation Links
KU Leuven lab coordinates €9m effort to find new deep-sea drugs

The large-scale, four-year 'PharmaSea' project, which began in October 2012, brings together 24 partners from 13 countries and involves the collection of mud and sediment samples from extreme oceanic trenches up to nine kilometres deep; the creation of small-molecule extract libraries from marine bacteria isolated from these samples; and biological screening of these extracts to identify chemical compounds with drug-like properties. These molecules will be developed further as drug leads in three indication areas inflammation, infectious diseases, and CNS disorders.

Only a handful of samples from deep-sea trenches have ever been collected and studied, so the project is breaking new ground. One PharmaSea partner, Deeptek an SME based in Scotland has developed new instrumentation for sampling from the ocean bottoms using engineering technology based on salvaging operations that can considerably cut down costs. PharmaSea will also search for new microbes in other unique environments (e.g. thermal vents and whale falls) in collaboration with partners from New Zealand and Norway. "PharmaSea will not only be exploring new territory at the bottom of the oceans, but also new areas in 'chemical space'," says Esguerra.

Behavioural footprint

KU Leuven's lab is contributing to the third work package, which focuses on bioassays and screening. Senior scientist Alex Crawford explains: "Our lab will help isolate novel neuroactive compounds using zebrafish assays. In a first phase of screening, we will observe what zebrafish larvae do in the presence of the various deep sea extracts. By flashing a burst of light to trigger a startle response, we are able determine whether a given deep sea extract is associated with an atypical photo-motor response. If so, that extract is identified as having a neuroactive behavioural footprint and is set aside for further testing."

Determining a sample's behavioural footprint is the first step in isolating a novel molecule or compound for drug development. "Based on preliminary experiments we expect an appreciable number of extracts to show neuroactivity in this zebrafish screen. The next step is to identify the active molecule in the extract the classic challenge of natural product discovery," says Crawford.

Molecule isolation is achieved through an iterative process of bioactivity analysis and chromatographic separation. "Neuroactive extracts go on to a secondary, disease-specific screening and then undergo a 'fractionation' process. These fractions are then re-tested for neuroactivity and active fractions are separated down to the molecular level using methods like microfractionation, mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy." Fractionation and molecular-level analysis will be carried out by consortium scientists at the University of Aberdeen and University College Cork, respectively. Professor Marcel Jaspars, head of the Marine Biodiscovery Centre at the University of Aberdeen, is Project Leader of PharmaSea.


The researchers hope the neuroactive compounds and molecules isolated from the deep-sea samples can be developed into seizure-inhibiting drugs. Esguerra: "At the moment, over 30% of patients with epilepsy do not respond to currently available anti-epileptic drugs. Therefore their seizures remain uncontrolled, leading to high mortality or cognitive and locomotor impairments. Over the last several years, our laboratory has established a number of different zebrafish seizure models. With the help of these models, we are quite hopeful the we will find a number of exciting new drug leads."

Contact: Camila Esguerra
KU Leuven

Related biology news :

1. Mainz University coordinates new EU project on the origins of human settlement
2. Global effort launched to save turtles from extinction
3. UCSD researchers: Where international climate policy has failed, grassroots efforts can succeed
4. Washington University receives $8 million to lead international childhood malnutrition effort
5. U-M biologist plays key role in effort to create first comprehensive tree of life
6. Report details efforts to improve, advance indoor microbial sampling
7. NIST effort could improve high-tech medical scanners
8. Efforts to develop new drugs that hopefully will never be used
9. Computing advances vital to sustainability efforts; new report recommends problem-focused, iterative approach to research
10. NOAA plankton surveys, second longest in the North Atlantic, add to new global effort
11. Researchers take hibiscus efforts to commercialization
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
KU Leuven lab coordinates €9m effort to find new deep-sea drugs
(Date:6/7/2016)... June 7, 2016  Syngrafii Inc. and San ... relationship that includes integrating Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature ... This collaboration will result in greater convenience for ... union, while maintaining existing document workflow and compliance ... ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016   The Weather Company ... announcing Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will ... being able to ask questions via voice or text and ... Marketers have long sought an ... consumer, that can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... Calif. , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by ... LMD3251MT  3D medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to the ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Liquid Biotech USA ... a Sponsored Research Agreement with The University of ... from cancer patients.  The funding will be used ... with clinical outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a ... be employed to support the design of a ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers ... 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional ... spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Mass. , June 23, 2016   ... development of novel compounds designed to target cancer ... napabucasin, has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from ... the treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction ... stemness inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... Plate® YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval ... of microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory ...
Breaking Biology Technology: