The underside of the ocean is full of contradictions, but scientists have newly excavated one of its best-kept mysteries. For 25 years, drug hunters have been surveying for the source of a natural chemical that had indicated the promise in initial research for treating cancer. Researchers at the University of Utah Health report that easy to discover soft corals are flexible corals that match aquatic plants and make the tricky compound. Examining the source allowed the experimenters to go a step further and find the animal’s DNA code for synthesizing the chemical. They were prepared to carry out the early steps of recreating the soft coral chemical in the laboratory by fulfilling those instructions.
“This is the first time we have been able to do this with any drug lead on Earth,” announces Eric Schmidt, Ph.D., professor of medicinal chemistry at U of U Health. He directed the study with Paul Scesa, PSessa postdoctoral scientist and first author, and Zhenjian Lin, Ph.D., assistant research professor.
The upswing opens the chance of generating the compound in the large quantities needed for strict testing and could one-day outcome in a new tool to fight cancer.
Bradley Moore, Ph.D., a second study group overseen by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, independently demonstrated that corals make pertained molecules. Both studies are disclosed in the May 23 problem of Nature Chemical Biology.