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Diving Deep for New Drugs


Oceanographers using deep water submersibles believe they are rapidly getting closer to creating drugs that can greatly reduce the pain and suffering of terminally ill patients.

Deep-sea researchers are finding scores of unidentified plants and animals they believe can lead to cures for cancer, AIDS and other complex medical conditions.

Amy Wright is a marine medical researcher in Florida. She's looking for a particular sponge just 25 kilometers off the Florida coast. It's pitch black, and there's the sponge she's after!

Amy Wright explains how the sponges can be used. “These sponges, and actually all sponges, don't have the ability to move so that they need to find ways to defend themselves. So they use chemicals to do much of that. So then we can use those same compounds but, for example, to try and kill cancer cells."

The sponge is picked apart and analyzed at the lab. Scientists here believe they are close to isolating a certain compound that attacks a protein found in some cancer cells. "Nothing else can do that, and that would be really great way to treat cancer," Ms. Wright adds.

Prialt is a powerful painkiller that comes from a snail, plucked from the ocean bottom. Ocean scientists and medical researchers say there are more mysteries to unravel in the deep sea that could one day revolutionize the treatment of many diseases.