Sponges are animals that can't run away, but they're not defenseless. Sponges make chemicals that protect them from scavengers and infections and some of those chemicals could become medicines for people.
Researchers from Harbor Branch Oceanograpic Institution use submarines to collect sponges from the bottom of the ocean. Like making a cup of tea, they extract chemicals from a sponge and test that solution for a specific drug effect.
If they see an effect they separate the different chemicals and test each new solution until they identify the one that had the effect. But why look for new medicines when there are many other drugs already out there? The institution says it's to build up the arsenal of treatments and cures that they can use.
Several of the chemicals they've found are already being tested on humans. That may take years, but it's nice to know that even the simplest of creatures could help wash away our ailments.
After almost 20 years of searching the researchers recently re-discovered a sponge that producers a very promising anti-cancer agent. They're working to get it into human trial as soon as possible. For more information visit www.sciencecentral.com