Sponging away pain

THOUGH only about 10 per cent of rainforest plants -- far less diverse than ocean life -- have been screened, these have still yielded a number of anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs. Research on marine natural products which are far more diverse did not begin until 1973, but according to a report in Nature (Vol 358 No 6387), there has been a flurry of activity since and exciting results are beginning to emerge.

A research group which has studied certain sponges has found they are potent anti-inflammatory agents. The sponges form prostaglandins and leukotrines, the first of which eases pain and inflammation and the latter reduces immune reactions. Research into their mode of actions could result in the design and synthesis of effective anti-pain drugs.