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Algae contains important active substances against MRSA and skin cancer
In an alga previously unknown bioactive components have now been identified which can be used to fight infectious bacteria such as MRSA and to treat skin cancer.
In the current study by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, new bioactive components were found in an algae species that could improve the treatment of skin cancer and the protection against infectious bacteria. The results were published in the English-language journal "Marine Drugs".
Potential for drug development
Marine organisms and their microbial symbionts can be used to cure human diseases. There are already twelve important and life-saving drugs, for example against cancer, that have been developed from marine organisms and their symbiotic microbiota. According to the researchers, natural products from the sea have a potential for drug development that is four times higher than that of other natural or synthetic compounds. However, the long potential and costly development process hampers the high potential for drug development.
New bioactive ingredients have been identified
By using the latest analytical approaches in connection with bio- and chemical informatics and machine learning, new bioactive components of bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), which is also native to the Baltic Sea, and a fungal symbiote that could be used against infectious bacteria and skin cancer have now been identified.
Molecular isolation problems
In order to find marine active substances, macro- and microorganisms are extracted first, followed by the cleaning and characterization of new and bioactive chemical ingredients, which are to be used in the future for the development of therapeutic agents. A major problem in the research of active substances is the isolation of already known natural molecules using classic bioactivity-based isolation processes. Such a process is extremely complicated and unfortunately has the potential for many mistakes to creep in, the researchers explain.
How could the problem be solved?
The research group tried to solve this problem with automated, computer-aided approaches in combination with bioactivity screening. During a study over a period of one year, it was found that the brown algae examined inhibited the growth of the pathogenic bacterium methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is responsible for many very dangerous hospital infections.
Advantages of the new method
The algorithms used in the investigation summarize the substances as molecular families on the basis of their chemical similarities identified in mass spectrometric analyzes in complex networks. With the help of machine learning tools, it is possible for known as well as new compounds to be chemically identified in the extract. Then, with the help of bioinformatics, the so-called bioactivity score of the molecules is predicted according to their relative frequency in the fractions, after which the bioactive compounds can then be isolated in a targeted manner.
New process saves a lot of time
It would normally take three to four years from the extraction to the characterization of the bioactive ingredients of the algae using traditional methods. Fortunately, the use of automated tools can accelerate the targeted discovery of new natural antibiotics to a few months.
Algae molecules can also protect people
“In nature, bladder wrack is often under strong vegetation pressure and biofilm formation from millions of microorganisms in sea water. Therefore membrane-bound compounds as we have identified them are of great ecological importance for the protection of the algae. Such molecules, which play an important role in natural habitats, often also show activities against human pathogens, ”study author Professor Deniz Tasdemir from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel explains in a press release.
Application potential of bladder wrack in the food industry?
Because bladder wrack is an edible seaweed, the activities mentioned above make it an attractive source of medicines and also food supplements or food protection, the expert adds. The research group plans to next investigate the application potential of bladder wrack in the food industry.
120 symbiotic mushrooms from bladder wrack have already been isolated
There are many fungi on and in marine algae that live in symbiosis with their host. This makes them promising candidates in the discovery and development of new drugs. The team has already isolated over 120 symbiotic mushrooms from bladder wrack. Specifically, a genus of mushrooms called Pyrenochaetopsis sp. investigated in more detail because this fungus kills melanoma-type skin cancer cells, but at the same time shows low toxicity to normal skin cells. The fungus also has an extremely rich chemical inventory, the researchers report.
Fungus has potential to fight skin cancer
According to Professor Tasdemir, this is only the second chemical study on the previously completely unexplored mushroom genus Pyrenochaetopsis. Mushrooms isolated from bladder wrack and cultivated in the laboratory are an established source of natural anti-cancer agents. The latest research identified several novel natural substances (pyrenosetine A and B) with a high potential for combating skin cancer.
Many medicines are based on sources from the sea
“Nature is the source of more than half of all modern medicines that we use today. Access to the revolutionary genomics, bioinformatics and machine learning tools enables unprecedented new discoveries of marine agents as well as more efficient analyzes for later drug development with industrial partners, ”Professor Tasdemir concludes. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Larissa Buedenbender, Francesca Anna Astone, Deniz Tasdemir: Bioactive Molecular Networking for Mapping the Antimicrobial Constituents of the Baltic Brown Alga Fucus vesiculosus, in Marine Drugs (published 06/13/2020), Marine Drugs
- GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel: Active substances from Kiel's seaweed discovered as a remedy for infections and skin cancer (published 02.07.2020), GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel