Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drug discovery team to explore newly discovered deep-sea reefs

23.05.2006


From May 22-30, Harbor Branch scientists, along with colleagues from the University of Miami, will use the Harbor Branch Johnson-Sea-Link II submersible to explore for the first time newly discovered deep-sea reefs between Florida and the Bahamas. The reefs were discovered in 2,000 to 2,900 feet of water last December by a University of Miami team using advanced sonar techniques. A primary goal of the upcoming expedition, which is funded largely by the State of Florida’s "Florida Oceans Initiative," will be to search for marine organisms that produce chemical compounds with the potential to treat human diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.



"We’ve found incredible and surprising diversity at other deepwater reefs near Miami and Bimini, and some promising potential disease treatments, so we’re very excited about the chance to explore these new areas," says Amy Wright, director of the Harbor Branch Division of Biomedical Marine Research.

Researchers have suspected since the 1970s that deep reefs lay undiscovered between Miami and Bimini because pieces of reef-building corals had been brought up using surface-operated dredge and grab sampling equipment. However, just as the vast majority of the ocean remains poorly mapped and unexplored--even off Miami--these potentially important areas remained unseen.


In December of 2005, as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Ocean Exploration program, University of Miami researchers, led by geophysicist Mark Grasmueck and geologist Gergor Eberli, began mapping deepwater habitats off Miami and Bimini using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with advanced sonar technology. AUVs operate without a tether to the surface and are pre-programmed to independently perform tasks. AUVs have been frequently used in oil exploration and also in a variety of other research programs for mapping purposes, but the Miami researchers believe this is the first time an AUV has been used to map deepwater coral reefs.

Miami’s December AUV work revealed what appears to be an extensive system of steep slopes and mounds as high as 350 feet, all of which are likely to harbor a wide array of sponges, corals, fish, and other animals. A camera developed at the University of Miami allowed researchers to get an enticing glimpse of the bottom, but until researchers make it to the seafloor in the submersible they will not be able to determine the extent and biological diversity of the newly discovered reefs. Harbor Branch has discovered a number of other new deepwater reefs in Florida waters in recent years that play important ecological roles, but has never before had the chance to explore this area.

From May 22-26, the team will be working at sites on the Bahamas side of the Straits of Florida, about 10 miles from Bimini. From May 27-30 they will be on the Florida side, beginning about 20 miles out from Miami, though all the reefs are part of the same geological system. After a quick personnel and equipment turnaround, Harbor Branch researchers will return to the Miami area on a separate expedition from May 31 to June 9 to conduct the first in depth survey of deep reef areas in the region to better assess the ecological importance of the reefs and to identify factors responsible for their incredible diversity.

Researchers typically have to spend hours using a ship depth sounder to map an area before determining where to do submersible dives because maps detailed enough to show the telltale mounds and other features of deepwater reefs simply do not exist for the bulk of the seafloor. With such little information available, Grasmueck compares typical seafloor exploration to arriving on the bottom of the Grand Canyon at night with a flashlight and then attempting to ascertain the significance and topography of the whole canyon based on small swaths revealed by the flashlight. The Miami AUV work has instead made it possible to choose dive sites likely to be vibrant reef areas ahead of time, all with an understanding of the full system being explored.

The expedition will have two main goals. First, the team will use the submersible to explore those seafloor areas that appear most promising based on their sonar map contours. As this "ground truthing" work progresses, the team will be able to better predict correlations between map data and biodiversity on the bottom. Ultimately this will allow them to more accurately assess the ecological importance of the entire area, not just those small swaths observed from the submersible.

During each submersible dive, Harbor Branch experts will be collecting samples of organisms such as sponges and corals that will be tested to determine if they, or microorganisms living within them, produce chemicals with pharmaceutical potential. A key goal is to find and collect organisms that have never been seen, which happens on almost every one of the Harbor Branch team’s expeditions. Other organisms will also be collected because even well known species can produce different and potentially important chemicals depending on the depth, temperature, and location at which they are found.

Harbor Branch’s quest for drugs from the sea began in the early 1980s and has led to the collection of tens of thousands of marine organism samples and the identification of a number of promising potential drugs now in various stages of development for treating cancer, Alzheimer’s, malaria, AIDS and other ailments.

Mark Schrope | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hboi.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>