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article imageAlgae toxin may kill cancer cells

By Bob Ewing     Oct 4, 2009 in Health
A recent collaborative study says a powerful fish-killing toxin, known as euglenophycin, could have cancer-killing properties.
The study was led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Paul; V. Zimbia and chemist Peter Moeller of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The ARS media release says euglenophycin has a molecular structure similar to that of solenopsin, an alkaloid from fire ant venom known to inhibit tumor development.
The study was published online in July in the journal Toxicon.
Zimbia, Moeller, and Michigan State University biologist Richard Triemer, were working together, during the summer of 2002, to determine why fish were mysteriously dying at a commercial aquaculture facility in North Carolina.
The fishery was facing losses totaling over $100,000.00 when more than 21,000 striped bass died in July and August.
In a 2004 paper in the Journal of Fish Disease, they identified the culprits as Euglena sanguinea and E. granulata, two species of freshwater algae that had generally been considered benign.
This incident was the first recorded event of freshwater algae killing fish, since then there have been 11 additional occasions in which euglenoid algae have fatally impacted fish ponds.
The researcher purified the active compounds and fully characterized the molecular structure of euglenophycin, the algal toxin responsible for the fish kills.
The team is looking for patent protection on the toxin as they continue to investigate its properties.
Euglenophycin is deadly to fish and catfish exposed to the purified form of the toxin died within 4 hours of exposure.
It is possible that the toxin can be used to treat cancer patients. Laboratory tests have provided evidence even low concentrations of euglenophycin led to a significant decrease in cancer cell growth, and can kill cancer cells.
The researchers are seeking to find out if the toxin can slow or prevent tumor formation.
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