Drugs from the Sea


Frobisher Bay, Nunavut. Image: Rod Brazier/Flickr
Frobisher Bay, Nunavut. Image: Rod Brazier/Flickr
A single gram of sediment might contain a billion bacterial cells. Each one of those cells might contain 100 molecules—and if you’re lucky, one of those molecules might hold the secret to a new generation of lifesaving drug.


By Matthew Braga|MOTHERBOARD

The chances of finding the right molecule on the right grain of sand are infinitesimally small, of course, but not impossible. About two-thirds of FDA approved antibiotics trace back to natural products such as these, and the majority of antibiotics used on humans come from molecules found in actinomycetes, a single bacterial group.

In fact, the hunt for these molecules is a whole scientific field.

„Very simplistically, if we can find new members of this group of bacteria—from, say, arctic sediment—then we may be able to isolate new natural products produced by these bacteria,“ said Russell Kerr, a Canada Research Chair in Marine Natural Products, and a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island. „The hope [is] that these natural products will have potential as antibiotics or anti-cancer drugs, and other applications such as nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals.“

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