Pharmacological activity of Caribbean sponges assessed
UN/DICYT Science has discovered different compounds in sponges that help battle against diseases such as cancer and other types of tumors. This was the goal of a research project carried out by UNal Biotechnology master’s Lina Marcela Blandón, who analyzed the antiproliferative, cytotoxic and genotoxic activity of a fraction obtained from Topsentia ophiraphidites sponge from the Colombian Caribbean.
Professor María Elena Márquez explained that UNal Science Faculty’s Animal Biotechnology Group along with Universidad de Antioquia’s Natural Marine Products Group have been researching Colombian sponge biodiversity for the past eight years.
The idea behind the project is to determine which potentially bioactive molecules can be found in sponges. In other words, “Become cognizant if they may be used as drugs and if they could be used as antiparasitic, antiviral or antitumor, because sponges are primitive animals that have many defenses against predators due to their sessile (immovable) characteristic; therefore they produce very strong substances with different types of activity,” said Marquez.
These studies are based on the assumption that one of the most common drugs against cancer come from marine sponges, which have turned these invertebrates into a very intense area of research around the world. These studies focus on searching for molecules to produce new drugs as the current ones have limitations or secondary effects.
Regarding this specific research project, the then student assessed the bioactivity on tumor cells, one on leukemia and the other over the control.
The antiproliferative tests were to discover the potential of this fraction to inhibit tumor cell growth and the genotoxic test was to observe if the substance under scrutiny had some type of effect over cellular DNA.
“Usually when we search for the active profile of a substance we want it to be cytotoxic but not genotoxic, because the latter is related to drug secondary effects,” said Marquez.
In the tests carried out where they analyzed a T4 sponge fraction provided by the Universidad de Antioquia’s Marine Natural Product Laboratory, they discovered that the fraction affected the cycle of non-tumor cells, causing genotoxic damage both to the cancer cell as well as to the control cell line, which is not the ideal scenario.
Therefore the researcher suggested assessing this fraction in other derived tumor lines with the purpose of determining a differential effect and other antimicrobial and antimalarial activities, among others.
Cancer is considered one of the most common causes of death, especially in developing countries; therefore any research project that contributes to new drugs is essential.