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Seaweed yields new compounds with pharmaceutical potential

In the lab, researchers extracted these organisms using mixtures of organic liquids, which opened up the cells and dissolved the natural products. The organic liquids were then removed from the extract by evaporation, and small quantities of each extract were tested against a battery of pharmaceutical drug targets, including malarial parasite, tuberculosis-causing bacteria, and several cancers.

Typically, these tests involve exposing live, disease-causing cells -- parasites, bacteria or cancer cells -- to an extract and then assessing cell death compared to cells that were not exposed to extracts. Georgia Tech scientists then prioritized further study of extracts that had strong effects on these disease-causing cells.

The Callophycus red seaweed was one of the first five species that researchers investigated to identify the compounds within extracts that caused strong effects against disease-causing cells. Anne Prusak, a former Georgia Tech student and research technician, separated the new molecules from other components of the extract by a process called chromatography, which takes advantage of the different chemical characteristics of compounds.

Finally, researchers used X-ray crystallography (work done at Emory University in Atlanta), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectral analyses to determine how carbon, oxygen, bromine and hydrogen atoms connected to make up the molecular structures of the 10 new natural products.

Much research is left to do before any of these compounds are used to formulate a drug available on the market, Kubanek said. It typically takes at least a decade from the discovery of a compound to the marketing of a new drug. If that does happen in this case, Fijian villagers and the Fijian government would benefit financially from the discovery because of an agreement that is already in place, she added. Because of the long timeframe in getting a drug to market, the project in Fiji provide
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Source:Georgia Institute of Technology Research News


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