An American team of scientists has discovered that a type of soft coral common off the coast of Florida manufactures a chemical component to which anti-corrosion properties are attributed. cancer, they have reported in a statement.
Their study, published in the journal “Nature Chemical Biology”, is a step forward towards one day producing this compound, eleucerobinein the laboratory, they point out.
The component was initially discovered in the 1990s by a group of marine scientists who found it in a rare coral off the coast of Australia. Preliminary experiments indicated that eleucerobine, used by the coral as a defense against predators, it inhibited the growth of cancer cells.
For years, efforts were made in vain to find sufficient sources of the chemical that would allow the development of drugs, and its recreation in the laboratory was impossible without knowing how it is synthesized in nature, experts point out.
After identifying its existence in these soft corals, researchers led by Eric Schmidt were able to determine the genetic code which they use to synthesize it.
After following these instructions, they managed to take the first steps to recreate the compound in the lab. If it could be produced in higher quantities, eventually more exhaustive tests could be carried out to verify its effectiveness against cancer, they say.
The researchers claim that eleucerobine has advantages over other compounds found in animals for use in medicine.
One is that, unlike the poisonous chemicals that some species inject, the chemical in corals is made to be ingested and therefore it is more digestible.
This means that if it were to become a medicine, it could be administered by pill instead of an injection, and it would also be easier to digest.
“These compounds are harder to find, but they are easier to make in the lab and easier to take as medicine,” says Schmidt.
The authors confirm that corals contain many other compounds that could function as anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and other agents, and maintain that the method used on this occasion could be a benchmark for eventually developing them in the laboratory.