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Sea worms and jellyfish treat cancer and kill insects

15 Feb 2019

Scientists have found that marine invertebrates living in Troitsa Bay, the Sea of Japan, contain biologically active compounds with strong anti-tumour and anti-microbial properties and are also capable of killing insects.

This study was published in the Russian Journal of Marine Biology.

Scientists have studied 9 species of marine invertebrates - sea anemones, marine worms, nemerteans, and jellyfish.

They have discovered that they are carriers of biologically active compounds with immunostimulating properties, which have the potential to prevent a metastasis proliferation of malignant tumours.

"Marine invertebrates are a promising source of biologically active compounds that can be applied to design medical drugs of a new generation. The therapeutic effects of such compounds are of a broad range. They can be antioxidants, possess cardioprotective, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-tumour and many other properties," said Elena Leychenko, Associate Professor of the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry and Biotechnology of the School of Natural Sciences (SNS).

Scientists consider the segmented worms Eulalia viridis and the so-called marine 'peanut worms' (sipunculids) Phascolostoma agassizii  have the highest pharmacological potential among all invertebrates referred to in the article. 

Extracts obtained from these organisms were non-toxic to mouse erythrocytes and splenocytes and showed a significant antibacterial and anti-tumour effect.

It is noteworthy that the majority of extracts retrieved from all nine experimental samples of invertebrates were harmless to mammalian cells and at the same time toxic to insects and crustaceans.

It means that the isolated compounds are suitable not only for the development of the new drugs but also for the manufacturing of effective insecticides (chemicals for combating harmful insects).

In particular, the extract of the ringed worms Lepidonotuss quamatus was toxic to the larvae.

Scientists point out the expediency of further research of marine invertebrates to isolate the antitumor compounds from them.

Source: Far Eastern Federal University