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New Medicines May Lie Under the Sea–This Device Sniffs Them Out

in Animals 455 views

Marine organisms are constantly releasing invisible molecules under the ocean’s surface, and much like a million anonymous plants in the Amazon, scientists believe that some of these compounds could be the medicines of the future.

A study team at the Mediterranean Institute of Marine and Continental Biodiversity and Ecology has developed a proof-of-concept device that sniffs, in a way, seawater, trapping dissolved compounds for analysis.

They have shown that it could “easily” concentrate molecules that are present in underwater caves and that it holds promise for drug discovery in fragile ecosystems, such as coral reefs.

“A drop of seawater is like a spoonful of dilute soup: it’s a complex broth of dissolved molecules from ocean-dwelling organisms,” said study co-author Doctor Thierry Pérez.

To identify what’s in the mixture, scientists need to be able to observe concentrations of those molecules in isolation.

Dr. Pérez and his colleagues wanted to develop an underwater instrument that captures and enriches dissolved compounds produced by sponges and other marine organisms without harming their ecosystem.

They created a waterproof device that could be easily handled by an underwater diver and that could pump seawater through disks, which have a similar feel and thickness as make-up remover pads.

The team tested the instrument—called the In Situ Marine moleculE Logger, or “I-SMEL” – in 65-feet-deep Mediterranean sea caves that contained a variety of massive sponges.

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US Seeking to Protect Largest Underwater Canyon Off New York City For New Marine Sanctuary

in Enviroment 462 views

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public comment on potentially designating a new national marine sanctuary in Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York and New Jersey.

A sanctuary designation would help conserve the area’s rich marine wildlife and habitats, promote sustainable economic activities and create new opportunities for scientific research, ocean education and recreation.

Hudson Canyon is the largest underwater canyon along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and is about 100 miles out from New York and New Jersey shores. The canyon is 2.5 miles deep and up to 7.5 miles wide, and provides habitat for a range of protected and sensitive species, including sperm whales, sea turtles and deep sea corals.

The canyon’s rich biodiversity is integral to the region’s economy, underpinning commercial and recreational fisheries, recreational diving, whale-watching and birding.

Normally a job for the Congress, or a nature-loving president, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act allows NOAA to designate and protect areas of the ocean and Great Lakes with special national significance. The sanctuary would help President Biden to reach his 30×30 agenda to conserve 30% of territorial waters and lands of the U.S. by 2030.

“A sanctuary near one of the most densely populated areas of the Northeast U.S. would connect diverse communities across the region to the ocean and the canyon in new and different ways. It would also help advance the Administration’s commitment to conserve and restore special marine places, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA Administrator.

“As someone who grew up in New York City and went on to a career in ocean science, I am excited about how this amazing underwater environment can inspire shared interest in conserving our ocean.”

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