Coral-killing seaweed has medicinal benefits, researchers say
California researchers have discovered that there may be a silver lining to an invasive and toxic seaweed that is killing some of Hawaii’s coral reefs: It seems the seaweed contains compounds that could treat human diseases.
“I think this finding is a nice illustration of how we need to look more deeply in our environment, because even nuisance pests, as it turns out, are not just pests,” said William Gerwick, a researcher at UC San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It’s a long road to go from this early-stage discovery to application in the clinic, but it’s the only road if we want new and more efficacious medicines.”
The study appears in today’s issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology.
The seaweed, a tiny photosynthetic organism known as a cyanobacterium, was identified in 2008 on coral reefs near the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, off Hawaii’s Kona coast.
Photo credit: Jennifer Smith/Scripps Institution of Oceanography