Cures to deadly diseases such as cancer and AIDS could be found lurking in the waters off Irish coastlines, according to research being carried out by scientists at NUI Galway.
Specific species of sea sponges that are found in Irish waters are believed to contain toxins that can be used to combat cancer cells and even the AIDS virus.
Researchers have been screening the ancient marine creatures, and have found that they contain certain compounds that can destroy cancerous cells, whilst having no side effect on healthy ones.
The discovery has the potential to change medical treatments around the world. It is hoped that the research could lead to the sponges being integral for future generations in the treatment for prostate cancer and breast cancer.
Dr Grace McCormack (pictured above) is one of the scientists at NUI Galway who is working on the research. She spoke to the Irish Independent to explain: “At the moment we have preliminary data to suggest activity against specific cancers such as breast and prostate.
“This work needs now to be repeated, refined and the compounds that might be responsible for such activity need to be identified and purified. We need to determine if a single compound will have the same effect or if it is a combination of chemicals in the sponge that produces the activity.
“We have these wonderful marine resources on our doorstep which might present the next great cure.”
The work is still in the early stages, and McCormack called on the industry to provide more funding for the research.
There are indications that the sponges could hold the key to finding a cure for cancer. The toxins found in one particular species, called Discodermia, are currently being used in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer.