Drugs, Dressings, Diagnostics

Many medications and diagnostic agents are derived from proteins, hormones, and other chemical compounds in marine plants and animals. In a few cases, parts of the organisms themselves are used therapeutically.

AGAROSE, a biomedical-test medium is made from SEAWEEDS, which contain agar. Agar is purified into a powder and then made into a gel for numerous biomedical applications, including DNA testing. §

PHYCOBILIPROTEINS for research are made from SEAWEED. These naturally fluorescent proteins are used to separate and analyze blood cells and to identify some types of cancer cells. §

WOUND DRESSINGS sometimes contain calcium alginate from SEAWEED. When the fibers absorb fluid from the wound, they become a soft gel and make a warm, moist environment for natural healing. §

CALCITONIN for treating bone disorders was modeled after a protein from COHO SALMON. This hormone, also secreted by humans but in a much less potent form, slows bone breakdown. §

TETRODOTOXIN for neuroscience research is collected from PUFFERFISH and other marine organisms. It's a useful tool because it is a very potent nerve inhibitor. §

ADHESIVE for immobilizing cells and tissues for research is made from MUSSELS' byssal fibers--the anchors that mussels secrete to fasten themselves to rocks. The byssal-fiber "glue" has many biotechnological uses. §

DRUG PURITY TESTS can be done simply with an extract of HORSESHOE CRAB blood cells, which indicates the presence of dangerous bacterial toxins. After a crab donates blood, it's returned to a Cape Cod beach. §

ABSORBABLE SUTURES contain chitosan, made from shells of SHRIMPS and CRABS. In addition to sutures that speed healing after surgery, chitosan has dozens of uses in food, cosmetics, drugs, farm products, and water treatment. §

ARA-C, an anti-leukemic drug, was modeled on compounds taken from Caribbean SPONGES. It was one of the first drugs marketed in the U.S. that had an ocean connection. §

BONE SUBSTITUTE for speeding regrowth of bone grafts is available from CORALS. Coral skeletal structure is remarkably similar to human bone. §

Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan

gene carl feldman (gene@seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov) (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)