Researchers Find Chemical Compound in Soft Corals to Fight Cancer
A 25-year search for a promising anti-cancer chemical called eleutherobin, which is released by a rare coral species, is now bringing hope for new cancer treatments
Researchers have been seeking for a compound to slow cancer cell growth for the past 25 years. Finally, it seems that their search has come to a conclusion. Recently, researchers at the University of Utah Health have reported the discovery of a rare compound in soft corals to fight cancer. If successful, the world would finally have potential new cancer treatments.
The journal Nature Chemical Biology includes the new findings in a paper titled, “Ancient defensive terpene biosynthetic gene clusters in the soft corals.” Eleutherobin is the new compound with anti-cancer properties. It was also isolated in the 1990s from an elusive coral species off the coast of Australia. Back then, researchers discovered that this compound has highly potent and extremely cytotoxic anticancer potential. But at that time they didn’t know where to find more such corals in abundance to enable scalability.
Now, thanks to the latest DNA technology, researchers can easily study the corals’ genetic code. This time the researchers managed to apply the DNA tools to various other coral species to find similar genetic instructions for the formation of the eleutherobin-like compound.
For this, researchers used lab-grown bacteria and further programmed it to follow the instructions. Then, they observed microorganisms carrying out the process of forming eleutherobin precursors.
And, this proves that these soft corals are the ultimate producers of an anti-cancer compound. With the recreation of a similar genetic code in a lab enables the possibility of forming the compound required for further research. It will also help in drug development in the future.
Eric Schmidt, who co-led the research, says that it’s for the first time they can work on the genetic code of any nature-based drug. Corals need eleutherobin to keep predators away and it’s also formed to be eaten. Therefore, this chemical would be easier to digest if available in pill form.
However, the researchers still have to study a lot more about this compound before turning it into a medicine. But this compound has brought a ray of hope for curing cancer.