‘Nuisance’ Seaweed May Hold Key to Future Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis is a painful joint condition that can dramatically impact the lives of those it afflicts. Medicines and treatments are limited, and a cure has yet to be found.

However, scientists recently discovered that a seaweed known as a ‘nuisance’ in coral reefs in Hawaii may be able to lessen arthritic pain, as well as that of other ailments, including cancer and heart conditions.

The seaweed, a cause of coral bleaching, is home to billions of tiny photosynthetic organisms called cynobacterium. These release a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory abilities, and anti-bacterial proWilperties as well.

The discovery began back in 2008, when researchers from UC San Diego uncovered the cynobacterium off the coast of Kona, Hawaii. In 2009, they removed a sample from the seaweed blooms, which revealed the ‘honaucin’ compounds, which contain the unique anti-inflammatory properties.

“In different arenas these compounds could be helpful, such as treating chronic inflammatory conditions for which we currently don’t have really good medicines,” said Research Professor William Gerwick.

Jennifer Smith, assistant professor, added: “These organisms have been on the planet for millions of years and so it is not surprising that that have evolved numerous strategies for competing with neighboring species, including chemical warfare.

“Several species of cyanobacteria and algae are known to produce novel compounds, many that have promising use in drug development for human and other uses,” she continued.

“I think this finding is a nice illustration of how we need to look more deeply in our environment because even nuisance pests, as it turns out, are not just pests,” Professor Gerwick said. “It’s a long road to go from this early stage discovery to application in the clinic but it’s the only road if we want new and more efficacious medicines.”