Deep Sea Treatment

Deep Sea Treatment

Intern Studies Cancer Cells from Marine Products

Adolfo Artigas, a 2022 summer intern at the FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is searching for potential cancer treatments from new sources found in the ocean.

For his internship, Artigas worked in the FAU Harbor Branch Marine Biomedical & Biotechnology Research Program (MBBR), with Amy Wright, Ph.D., research professor, and Esther Guzmán, Ph.D., associate research professor. His project focused on testing natural compounds from marine organisms, ranging from sponges to sea urchins, to examine if they can kill cancer cells, as well as stop development in sea urchin embryos. “This project interests me because I am allowed to work on organisms that have not been previously examined and see if they show any potential for treating cancer,” he said.

The samples he’s testing came from a research expedition in May 2022 aboard the R/V Point Sur to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) and nearby areas in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. A team collected 183 samples of organisms and brought them back to HBOI. “Most of these samples are from organisms that have not been seen before, more or less been used in treatments for cancer research,” Artigas said.

Results from the study proved promising, he said. Of the 32 compounds he tested, 3 samples from one sponge inhibited cell division near 100% in the sea urchin embryos, and killed about 50% of cancer cells. These compounds have the potential for future cancer treatments, Artigas said.

Currently a senior at FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, Artigas is majoring in marine biology and said he hopes to continue in the field of cancer research. “I find it fascinating that we know so little about the marine world, so I would love to be the one exploring it,” he said. “t I have learned about the importance of these bioactive compounds and I now know the process that goes into discovering what they are.”

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