The natural world is a huge source of life-saving drugs, with plants and animals providing us with all kinds of therapeutic compounds throughout human history. That extends to the sponges that inhabit the seas, with new research detailing how a molecule derived from an Indonesian sea sponge species proved capable of preventing cervical cancer growth in the lab.
Chemicals that occur naturally in sea sponges have long been seen as candidates for tackling a range of dangers to human health. This includes combatting robust biofilms of infectious bacteria, the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that cause tuberculosis, malaria and various forms of cancer.
Scientists at the University of South Carolina have been investigating the cancer-fighting potential of sea sponges for some time, uncovering compounds that proved effective in tackling melanomas, prostate and pancreatic cancers. Their latest work centers on cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer type among women, with 13,800 new diagnoses and 4,290 deaths expected in the US in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society.
The researchers were testing out the capabilities of manzamine A, which is made naturally by the Acanthostronglyophora ingens sea sponge in Indonesia’s Manado Bay. Through previous studies, manzamine A had been established as an effective combatant against the parasite behind malaria, with studies in rodents showing how it can be used as a single-dose cure.