|Cancer Killer Found in the Ocean - Science Insider
Reported November 2007
BACKGROUND: Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have discovered bacteria in mud from the Bahamas with the potential to help fight cancer. Now that the bacteria’s genome has been successfully sequenced, that information is now being used by a pharmaceutical company to treat bone marrow cancer patients.
ABOUT THE BACTERIA: The bacteria known as Salinispora tropica is related to the Streptomyces genus, a land-based group of bacteria considered to be the kinds of antibiotic-producing organisms. First discovered in 1991 in shallow ocean sediment off the Bahamas, it took several years to successfully sequence Salinispora’s genome, revealing that this mud-dwelling bacteria produces natural antibiotics and anti-cancer products. Researchers found that 10 percent of the bacteria’s genome is dedicated to producing molecules for antibiotics and anti-cancer agents, compared to only 6 to 8 percent of most organisms’ genomes. The decoding opens the door to a broad range of possibilities for isolating and adapting potent molecules the marine organism naturally employs for chemical defense, scavenging for nutrients, and communication in its ocean environment. One compound, “salinosporamide A,” is currently in human clinical trials for treating multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow, as well as for treating solid tumors.
SEQUENCING ABCS: Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome: the building blocks that make up an organism’s DNA. The entire genome can’t be sequenced at once because DNA sequencing methods can only handle short stretches of DNA at a time. So scientists break the DNA into small pieces, sequence those, and then reassemble the pieces into the proper order to sequence the entire genome. There are two ways of doing this. The “clone-by-clone” approach involves breaking the genome into chunks, called clones, each about 150,000 base pairs long, then using genome mapping techniques to figure where each belongs in the genome. Next they cut the clones into smaller, overlapping pieces of about 500 base pairs each, sequence those pieces, and use the overlaps to reconstruct the sequence of the entire clone.
The American Geophysical Union and the American Society for Microbiology contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Mario Aguilera (PAO)
American Society for Microbiology
Washington, DC 20036-2904
American Geophysical Uniony
Washington, DC 20009-1277
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