Science explores deepest, coldest and hottest places on the planet

Jun 14, 2013
Science explores deepest, coldest and hottest places on the planet
Credit: Marcel Jaspars

Researchers are embarking on an ambitious four-year project to explore some of the deepest, coldest and hottest places on the planet. The aim is to collect and screen samples of mud and sediment from huge, previously untapped, oceanic trenches, more than 8,000 metres deep.

The first field tests will be carried out shortly in the Atacama Trench in the , off the coast of Chile and Peru, and then the search will journey to the off Norway and the Antarctic via Italian and South African partners. Deep trenches will also be accessed off New Zealand and China.

Studies will focus on exploring the deepest, most extreme and as yet unexplored trenches. Only a handful of samples have ever been taken from such sites, but this is the challenge for the PHARMASEA project, which aims to break new ground.

The project team will also centre on biodiscovery research and development of new bioactive compounds from bacteria and fungi, including those obtained from macroorganisms. These will be evaluated in order to see their potential as leads or ingredients for nutrition or cosmetic applications.

'We will be exploring new that can produce antibiotics in three areas,' says chemistry professor Marcel Jaspars who is the director of the Marine Biodiscovery Centre at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, as well as coordinator of the project. 'We are also looking at discovering drugs that can help diseases, antioxidants and inflammatory solutions which are also used in cosmetics.'

The professor believes that this research is crucial given that have not been registered since 2003. He says, 'If nothing is done to combat this problem, there is a risk we will be back to a ''pre-antibiotic-era'' in around 10 or 20 years, where bugs and infections that are currently quite simple to treat could become fatal.'

Professor Jaspars continues: 'Organisms underwater are very different from what you find on land. The marine organisms we are researching can live more than 6,000 metres below sea level so they can survive under extreme conditions. This makes them a very interesting source of .'
In addition to covering new territory at the bottom of the oceans, the project will also explore new areas in chemical space. This refers to the ensemble of all possible molecules, which is of great interest for scientists in drug discovery. The team will develop a broad platform of cutting-edge bioassays, which will detect drug-like activity, while unique chemical compounds will be tested from marine samples that have never seen the light of day.

Researchers will be using fishing vessels in order to collect sediment samples at the bottom of the sea. They will then attempt to grow bacteria and from the sediment that can be extracted to isolate novel drug-like molecules for pharmacological testing.

The international project is backed by more than EUR 9.5 million of EU-funding and brings together 24 partners from 13 countries within industry, academia and non-profit organisations.

Explore further: Bridgmanite: World's most abundant mineral finally named

More information: PHARMASEA www.pharma-sea.eu/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU-project on deep-sea organisms

Feb 15, 2013

The collaborative project PharmaSea will bring European researchers to some of the deepest, coldest and hottest places on the planet. Scientists from the UK, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, ...

Mining for new drugs in the ocean

Feb 28, 2013

Each time we use an antibiotic, the weaker strains of infection are killed off while the stronger, more virulent strains are left behind to multiply. In the past, this has not caused much concern, as there ...

Recommended for you

Bridgmanite: World's most abundant mineral finally named

7 hours ago

A team of geologists in the U.S. has finally found an analyzable sample of the most abundant mineral in the world allowing them to give it a name: bridgmanite. In their paper published in the journal Science, the te ...

Volcano in south Japan erupts, disrupting flights

14 hours ago

A volcano in southern Japan is blasting out chunks of magma in the first such eruption in 22 years, causing flight cancellations and prompting warnings to stay away from its crater.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.