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Osteoporosis and Cancer Prevention May Get Help from Key Largo Reefs

Repairing injured and deteriorating bone from osteoporosis and cancer treatment may have help from a component found in coral reefs.

AnnA Rushton

There are a number of ways of dealing with damaged bone and bone loss from osteoporosis, but a potentially novel new way has been uncovered by scientists from the University of Florida. They have identified a substance in the bacterium of some varieties of coral reef that helps heal injured and deteriorating bones, as well as preventing bone loss and degradation.

Their findings reveal that largazole, the key component from the coral reef, is an effective bone remedy with lots of potential. It is also an effective anti-cancer treatment, according to earlier research.

Components similar to largazole are already used in a variety of popular medications and bacteria containing such substances come from various trees, plants, soil and animals. However, the recent discovery of the substance in the coral reefs off Key Largo, Florida, offers added potential as scientists were able to identify key cell regeneration properties in this particular variety of the substance that were previously unknown.

“Largazole’s ability to reprogram cells can also be exploited for tissue regeneration, and we initially focused on potential bone-forming properties of largazole,” said Hendrik Luesch, associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. He and assistant professor Jiyong Hong, from Duke University, performed extensive testing on largazole’s ability to regenerate bones and came up with some amazing findings.

It seems that largazole initiates the process of osteogenesis in the body, which is when the body begins not only to repair damaged bones but also to grow new bone tissue. And at the same time as it performs this function, largazole also prevents bones from breaking down and being reabsorbed back into the body. The implications of this dual effect are highly promising and this data clearly shows the great potential of largazole for improvement of the property of bone graft substitutes in bone defect reconstruction.

It would also seem to offer another possibility for treatment for women who suffer from bone fractures and thinning due to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. This research is at an early stage but it is definitely worth pursuing and my only question would be the environmentally ethical one as to whether coral reefs can sustain the level of research required. I presume that they are also going to be looking, as is usual, for a synthetic substitute for the natural substance.

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