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Surprising Science

Sea Sponge Cancer Cure?

Scientists at MIT are working to synthesize bacteria found living in sea sponges on the ocean floor, which when in danger emit a chemical that has been shown to eliminate tumor cells.

“Deep in the ocean, sponges of the Agelas family, or bacteria living within the sponges, emit chemicals believed to help them defend their territory. Those chemicals, called agelastatins, have also shown the ability to kill cancer cells. For that reason, chemists have been trying to find ways to synthesize agelastatins in the laboratory since the chemicals were discovered in 1993. Chemists at MIT, led by Associate Professor Mohammad Movassaghi, recently discovered the shortest and most productive way to synthesize all six of the known agelastatins. The team, which also includes graduate students Dustin Siegel and Sunkyu Han, described the new method in the Aug. 16 online edition of the journal Chemical Science.”


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