Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Searching the depths of the straits of Florida for disease cures

04.04.2005


Harbor Branch Biomedical Expedition to include first submersible exploration of remote Cay Sal Bank



On Monday, the Harbor Branch drug discovery group will begin a 2-week expedition to explore the Straits of Florida in search of organisms that produce chemicals with the potential to cure diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. The work will include the first submersible exploration of the remote Cay Sal Bank, which encompasses a number of small, uninhabited islands 30 miles north of Cuba. Cay Sal was once notorious for its role in illegal drug smuggling, but researchers expect to discover pristine reefs there down to 3,000 feet that could lead to a new reputation for the area as the source of lifesaving drugs. Regular dispatches and photos from the expedition will be posted at http://www.at-sea.org.

"We don’t really know what organisms to expect," says Dr. Amy Wright, head of the Harbor Branch Biomedical Marine Research group, "Given the difference in the habitat, we expect to find some new species that we haven’t collected before. That’s why we’re going."


Cay Sal is a 60-mile wide sand bank fringed with a few small islands and surrounded on all sides by the deep Straits of Florida and the swiftly flowing Florida Current, which joins with the Antilles Current to form the Gulf Stream off Central Florida. Besides the Cay Sal Bank, the expedition will also include several days of submersible exploration on the Miami Terrace, a 60-mile long, ancient deep-water reef just east of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

During dives on the Miami Terrace in May of 2004, the team, along with scientists from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, found incredible diversity that varied dramatically along its length. Prior to that cruise the steep rocky walls had only been seen from submersibles by geologists in 1970 and 1995. Dives during the Straits of Florida expedition will be in new areas not yet explored. Besides looking for unusual species, a key goal will be to gather samples of a sponge collected last May that produces chemicals currently showing potential in fighting pancreatic cancer.

The upcoming expedition is being supported through funds appropriated by the Florida legislature and approved by Governor Jeb Bush as part of the state’s response to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s (USCOP) historic 2004 report. The report is the first comprehensive review of the nation’s management of ocean resources in over 30 years. It calls for sweeping changes in ocean policy including dramatic increases in ocean science funding and restructuring of government agencies that manage ocean resources.

"Governor Bush’s response to the report was by far one of the most substantial and relevant of any state in the country," says Harbor Branch President and CEO Dr. Shirley Pomponi, who was a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel to the USCOP and will be part of the expedition.

The state also funds marine drug discovery exploration through the Florida Atlantic University-based Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology, which includes Harbor Branch as a partner.

In the 1950s the Cay Sal Bank was a staging area for secret missions in Cuba, just 30 miles away. Later, it became a notorious stopping point for narcotics smugglers, though regular patrols have all but eliminated that reputation. Though only about 50 miles from the Florida Keys, the Cay Sal Bank remains remote and relatively pristine because would-be visitors must clear customs on inhabited islands such as Bimini before heading for the bank. This makes for a long trip that deters most.

Divers who do make the journey are fond of Cay Sal because of its spectacular reefs, extensive cave systems, and abundant sea life, including the elusive whale shark. Harbor Branch scientists are attracted most to its steep topography between about 300 and 3,000 feet, which suggests that they will find the rocky walls that most commonly foster diverse deep-water ecosystems.

The Cay Sal Bank is located on the edge of a narrow ocean channel that funnels water as well as larvae and plankton from throughout the Caribbean, in all likelihood making for a unique habitat that will yield numerous interesting and potentially lifesaving samples during submersible dives as deep as 3,000 feet. The team will also conduct daily scuba dives in search of shallow-water organisms for biomedical testing.

Though Harbor Branch has used its submersibles to explore the Bahamas extensively since the 1970s, this will be the institution’s first trip to Cay Sal. Almost no information is available about the area’s deepwater habitats. Ultimately, Harbor Branch’s drug discovery group hopes to add to its growing collection of compounds derived from marine organisms that continue to show promise in fighting various forms of cancer and other diseases.

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

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

nachricht First transcription atlas of all wheat genes expands prospects for research and cultivation
17.08.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Quantum material is promising 'ion conductor' for research, new technologies

17.08.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>