Navigation Links
Drug discovery team to explore newly discovered deep-sea reefs

From May 22-30, Harbor Branch scientists, along with colleagues from the University of Miami, will use the Harbor Branch Johnson-Sea-Link II submersible to explore for the first time newly discovered deep-sea reefs between Florida and the Bahamas. The reefs were discovered in 2,000 to 2,900 feet of water last December by a University of Miami team using advanced sonar techniques. A primary goal of the upcoming expedition, which is funded largely by the State of Florida's "Florida Oceans Initiative," will be to search for marine organisms that produce chemical compounds with the potential to treat human diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's.

"We've found incredible and surprising diversity at other deepwater reefs near Miami and Bimini, and some promising potential disease treatments, so we're very excited about the chance to explore these new areas," says Amy Wright, director of the Harbor Branch Division of Biomedical Marine Research.

Researchers have suspected since the 1970s that deep reefs lay undiscovered between Miami and Bimini because pieces of reef-building corals had been brought up using surface-operated dredge and grab sampling equipment. However, just as the vast majority of the ocean remains poorly mapped and unexplored--even off Miami--these potentially important areas remained unseen.

In December of 2005, as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Ocean Exploration program, University of Miami researchers, led by geophysicist Mark Grasmueck and geologist Gergor Eberli, began mapping deepwater habitats off Miami and Bimini using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with advanced sonar technology. AUVs operate without a tether to the surface and are pre-programmed to independently perform tasks. AUVs have been frequently used in oil exploration and also in a variety of other research programs for mapping purposes, but the Miami researchers believe this is the first time an AUV has been used to map deepwater coral reefs.

Miami's December AUV work revealed what appears to be an extensive system of steep slopes and mounds as high as 350 feet, all of which are likely to harbor a wide array of sponges, corals, fish, and other animals. A camera developed at the University of Miami allowed researchers to get an enticing glimpse of the bottom, but until researchers make it to the seafloor in the submersible they will not be able to determine the extent and biological diversity of the newly discovered reefs. Harbor Branch has discovered a number of other new deepwater reefs in Florida waters in recent years that play important ecological roles, but has never before had the chance to explore this area.

From May 22-26, the team will be working at sites on the Bahamas side of the Straits of Florida, about 10 miles from Bimini. From May 27-30 they will be on the Florida side, beginning about 20 miles out from Miami, though all the reefs are part of the same geological system. After a quick personnel and equipment turnaround, Harbor Branch researchers will return to the Miami area on a separate expedition from May 31 to June 9 to conduct the first in depth survey of deep reef areas in the region to better assess the ecological importance of the reefs and to identify factors responsible for their incredible diversity.

Researchers typically have to spend hours using a ship depth sounder to map an area before determining where to do submersible dives because maps detailed enough to show the telltale mounds and other features of deepwater reefs simply do not exist for the bulk of the seafloor. With such little information available, Grasmueck compares typical seafloor exploration to arriving on the bottom of the Grand Canyon at night with a flashlight and then attempting to ascertain the significance and topography of the whole canyon based on small swaths revealed by the flashlight. The Miami AUV work has instead made it possible to choose div e sites likely to be vibrant reef areas ahead of time, all with an understanding of the full system being explored.

The expedition will have two main goals. First, the team will use the submersible to explore those seafloor areas that appear most promising based on their sonar map contours. As this "ground truthing" work progresses, the team will be able to better predict correlations between map data and biodiversity on the bottom. Ultimately this will allow them to more accurately assess the ecological importance of the entire area, not just those small swaths observed from the submersible.

During each submersible dive, Harbor Branch experts will be collecting samples of organisms such as sponges and corals that will be tested to determine if they, or microorganisms living within them, produce chemicals with pharmaceutical potential. A key goal is to find and collect organisms that have never been seen, which happens on almost every one of the Harbor Branch team's expeditions. Other organisms will also be collected because even well known species can produce different and potentially important chemicals depending on the depth, temperature, and location at which they are found.

Harbor Branch's quest for drugs from the sea began in the early 1980s and has led to the collection of tens of thousands of marine organism samples and the identification of a number of promising potential drugs now in various stages of development for treating cancer, Alzheimer's, malaria, AIDS and other ailments.


'"/>

Source:Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution


Related biology news :

1. Protein discovery could unlock the secret to better TB treatment
2. Purdue proves concept of using nano-materials for drug discovery
3. UCSD discovery may help extend life of natural pesticide
4. Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery
5. Biochemists report discovery of structure of major piece of telomerase; implications for cancer
6. Researchers make surprise discovery that some neurons can transmit three signals at once
7. Important discovery about second most fatal cancer
8. Harmless virus may hold key to more effective HIV drug discovery
9. Fundamental discovery -- Bone fracture
10. Genetic discovery could lead to drought-resistant plants
11. Gene discovery sheds light on causes of rare disease, cancer
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:5/16/2016)... YORK , May 16, 2016   EyeLock ... solutions, today announced the opening of an IoT Center ... to strengthen and expand the development of embedded iris ... an unprecedented level of convenience and security with unmatched ... authenticate one,s identity aside from DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... UAE, May 9, 2016 Elevay ... comes to expanding freedom for high net worth professionals ... in today,s globally connected world, there is still no ... could ever duplicate sealing your deal with a firm ... passports by taking advantage of citizenship via investment programs ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... and BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 ... a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), ... a global partnership that will provide end customers ... mobile banking and payment services.      (Logo: ... innovation area for financial services, but it also plays a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... PHILADELPHIA , June 27, 2016  Liquid ... today announced the funding of a Sponsored Research ... study circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  ... changes in CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes ... therapies. These data will then be employed to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the ... such as the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that ... the height of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston ... of novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness ... has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the ... treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) ... inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased ... received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of ... Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform ...
Breaking Biology Technology: