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publicado em 16/09/2010 às 16h00:00
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Marine sponges may have promising application in cancer studies

Wealth of chemical compounds in marine organisms is highlighted by a professor at the University of British Columbia

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The diversity of chemical compounds present in marine sponges places these animals among the most promising sources for obtaining bioactive natural products aimed at producing new drugs, according to Raymond Andersen, professor of Chemistry and Earth Sciences and the Ocean University of British Columbia, Canada.

Andersen, whose laboratory is dedicated to prospecting, isolation, structural analysis and synthesis of compounds from marine organisms, participated in this Thursday (9), Workshop on marine biodiversity: recent advances in bioprospecting, biogeography and phylogeography, conducted by the program Biota-FAPESP.

The scientist presented during the event at the FAPESP, work performed by his group on compounds isolated from sponges collected in Papua New Guinea and the Canadian coast. The compounds are antimitotic ie they are capable of stopping the process of cell division, allowing their use in developing cancer drugs, for example.

According to Andersen, the marine sponges are particularly interesting for the prospect of bioactive compounds, because rarely is one so remarkable chemical diversity in one organism.

One of the factors that explain this amazing chemical diversity is that the sponges do not have physical defenses, but they have bright colors are exposed and do not move and can not flee predators. So they need to have chemical defenses. We believe that because they are very primitive animals, they will be able to tolerate and produce chemicals in particular exotic, told the agency FAPESP.

The need for defense related to developments, however, is not the only explanation for the variety of chemical compounds found in sponges, according to the researcher. Much of this diversity can be the result of symbiosis another striking feature of the sponges.

Increasingly begun to believe that many of the compounds found in sponges are derived from symbiotic relationships with microorganisms from which they feed, he said.

Photos microscopic tissue of sponges show the presence within the tissues themselves, or in its vicinity a multitude of microorganisms. We think the high tolerance of sponges symbiotic relationships, developed over the development, may be one explanation for such bodies are such a rich source of new chemical compounds, said.

According to Andersen, compared with other marine organisms, only the order Alcyonacea soft corals, which have no skeleton of calcium carbonate are close to those sponges with respect to the wealth of chemical compounds and secondary metabolites.

Still, the chemistry of soft corals do not have much diversity. The most notable in the case of sponges, which are classes of compounds are all derived from different biosynthetic. Again, we believe that this characteristic may be reflecting the fact that several of these compounds is made by means of symbiosis, counting the immense diversity of microbes that live inside the sponge and is responsible for the incredible chemical diversity found in them explained .

Depending on where one species of sponge is collected, it can be very different, finding chemical compounds. For Andersen, it's more evidence that the chemical diversity comes from the symbiosis.

Probably the sponges living in different places have different symbiosis with microorganisms. In a way, this is a wonderful amplification of biodiversity. If the chemical was linked only to cells of the sponge, probably the same sponge everywhere have the same composition. But how chemistry is related to the symbiosis, the same species of sponge may have different chemical compositions in different parts of the world, multiplying the possibilities for exploration of bioactive products, he said.

The process of exploration is to collect the largest possible number of sponges and examine in a later stage, the potential of bioactive compounds present in them.

In general, we know that sponges are a rich source of chemical compounds. So do not orient the search for specific compounds. We collect many sponges so that we can assemble a large library of extracts, with high chemical diversity. Then, using biological assays, we searched for compounds that have specific types of biological activity as antimitotic activity, or action on a specific receptor, he explained.

Production bottleneck

After collecting sponges and obtain a high biodiversity, scientists know that they have available a wide variety of chemical compounds. "We then use chemical tests to find out in our huge collection of compounds, these two or three that we really want and have biological activities that need to," said Andersen.

The secret to a good bioprospecting, he said, is having a very rich chemistry library and at the same time, make available to the testing of biological activity that are highly efficient and selective for the various types of compounds.

"Molecules that seek to fulfill the following criteria: having theoretical interest due to the newness of their biogenesis - like molecules that have new skeletons of carbon, should show biological activity in vitro, which makes them prospective targets for the development of pharmaceutical agents and Finally, should show biological activities that allow them to have a central role in the biology of the organism that produces them, "he explained.

Once found the molecule, according to professor at the University of British Columbia, there is the main bottleneck for the production of new drugs: the production scale.

"When it comes to sponges, we can not go to nature to collect them and use them as sources for drug development. No pharmaceutical industry would invest in a compound that was developed exclusively from a natural resource of this type. It takes a renewable source. So after finding a compound that looks really promising, we must synthesize the molecule and make it in scale. This is a critical point in the process, before leaving for clinical trials, "he said.

Source: FAPESP
   Palavras-chave:   Cancer    Sponge    Raymond Andersen    Workshop    FAPESP   
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