Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Pharmacies
What’s the Latest Development?
Biologists have begun to discover just what a treasure trove the oceans’ coral reefs are in terms of finding potential cures to some of humanity’s worst diseases. Tens of thousands of chemicals have already been identified and, of those thousands, hundreds are currently under medical investigation. “Sponges are particularly rich sources of chemicals,” said professor Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York, “particularly anti-cancer chemicals. Many have been shown to be tumor suppresents and one has already been licensed for use in the treatment of leukemia.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Coral reefs naturally represent nature’s largest pharmacy thanks to evolutionary processes which have endowed a wide variety of species with vastly different and highly complex chemical makeups in their intense competition for a limited amount of underwater real-estate. Currently, however, coral reefs are under pressure from a variety of man-made hazards including pollution, over-fishing and climate change. “To lose those possible treatments through the destruction of coral reefs would be an unparalleled act of folly,” said Roberts.