FISHING FOR THERAPEUTICS
Marine Microorganisms Show Promise as New Cancer Drugs

Marine chemist Dr. William Fenical addresses an NIH audience.
Marine chemist Dr. William Fenical addresses an NIH audience.

Admit it—everyone harbors a secret hope that the cure for cancer is obscured only by the ocean depths, and that some day, science will find a way to harvest nature’s undersea pharmacopeia.

The ocean was once thought to be too deep, dangerous and difficult to explore, but marine scientists now have the tools to reel in and analyze some of the vast, previously untapped potential of marine microorganisms. It turns out that the ocean contains a plethora of dynamic molecules that have shown great potential as cancer drugs and new antibiotics.

“Over the last 60 years, microbes have provided a massive source for antibiotics and for cancer drugs; the first statins came from microbial sources,” said marine chemist Dr. William Fenical, director, Center for Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, who delivered the John Daly Memorial Lecture recently in Masur Auditorium. “It really was based on the fact that microorganisms are diverse, unique and the chemistry of the products produced by them tends to be highly bioactive.”

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Olympic-Style Competition To Showcase Use of Advanced Assistive Devices

Cybathlon pilot Michael McClellan takes a practice ride in a Cleveland park.
Cybathlon pilot Michael McClellan takes a practice ride in a Cleveland park.

While much of the world’s attention this past summer was on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a small team from Cleveland has had their eyes set on a fundamentally different kind of athletic competition for human-machine teams. This first-of-its-kind event, the international Cybathlon, features contests for people with disabilities using assistive technologies and will take place Oct. 8 in Zurich, Switzerland. Team Cleveland has entered the functional electrical stimulation bike race.

Though paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, the Team Cleveland cyclist will use power generated by his own leg muscles to pedal for gold around a 750-meter oval course. He will control a system that activates his muscles using electronic pulses. Researchers developed the implanted stimulation system with support from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. This bionic system will enable the cyclist to pilot a three-wheeled recumbent cycle in the race.

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