Assistant Professor Julia Kubanek and her colleagues at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have investigated a seaweed called Lobophora variegata (see below) and discovered it has a strong antifungal potency and potentially some cancer-fighting power.
Georgia Tech Photo: Caroline Joe
Close-up of a seaweed called Lobophora variegata being studied for its strong antifungal potency and potential cancer-fighting power.
Scientists have discovered that seaweeds defend themselves from specific pathogens with naturally occurring antibiotics. The finding helps explain why some seaweeds, sponges and corals appear to avoid most infections by fungi and bacteria, according to a study published May 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Seaweeds live in constant contact with potentially dangerous microbes, and they have apparently evolved a chemical defense to help resist disease,” said lead author Julia Kubanek, an assistant professor of biology and chemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “These plants have a really effective way of defending themselves.”
Few studies have addressed disease resistance in seaweeds, and seaweed diseases are little understood, except for species that are commercially important – for example, the seaweed used for sushi. This study’s report of isolating a potent antifungal compound contained in the common seaweed species Lobophora variegata reveals an unusual chemical structure not seen before in plants.
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