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August 15, 2008

Doubling Dead Zones

BY: sam

It’s Friday, so let’s start with some good news. Researchers from the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy recently discovered a compound they dubbed “largazole,” produced by microscopic cyanobacteria, that inhibits cancer cell growth. Although many common medications are derived from compounds found in nature (penicillin immediately comes to mind), few efforts have focused on discovering such products in marine environments. Hendrik Luesch, the study’s principal investigator, says that “The opportunities for marine drug discovery are spectacular.” And as for the bad news — well, Largazole and countless other products yet to be discovered could cease to exist if there’s no oceanic oxygen for these marine organisms to live on. A new study published by the journal Science claims that the number of “dead zones,” oxygen-starved areas where very few organisms can survive, has doubled every decade over the last 50 years, wiping out massive numbers of crabs, fish, and other marine life. The growth of these “dead zones” is largely attributed to chemical fertilizers and air pollution such as automobile smog. Fortunately, improved management of these pollutants has reduced or eliminated dead zones in Florida’s Indian River and New York’s Hudson River, meaning that we still have the opportunity to reverse this mass destruction of marine habitats around the world.So let’s review: A potential cancer cure in an increasingly oxygen-starved ocean…my head hurts. Let’s do something about it, eh?