Today is World Oceans Day and, admittedly, there seems to be a day for everything: hug your cat, eat your donut, have ice cream for breakfast. You can find a reason to celebrate anything, but don’t bypass this one too quickly. Those oceans are the key to life. There is a serious reason to celebrate oceans!
We live on an estuary, Galveston Bay. In fact, 60% of the world lives on estuaries. Pretty obviously, the oceans bring us great pleasure: water activities, seafood, a mode for travel and not to mention 70% of the world’s oxygen.
But did you know there is a virtual pharmacy down there below the surface? A living lab.
First, different sea animals have furthered our studies of our own bodies: squids have helped us better understand our human nervous system, sharks our immune system, and thank horseshoe crabs for secrets of sight. But the sea life that doesn’t swim, like sea sponges and coral, is incredibly relevant to the development of antiviral drugs, like Remdesivir, being used as a treatment for COVID-19 patients to help shorten the length of time fighting the coronavirus.
Here’s how it works. Sea sponges and coral don’t move -- they just sit there. That makes them perfect for an attack from underwater predators. What to do? Figure out how to create poisons and toxins to protect yourself from those hungry predators who think you’re a buffet! This is exactly what has happened over time. Those toxins and poisons lead to potent medicines for humans!
So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ocean-derived drugs for HIV, herpes, cancer, pain and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few. So the next time you hear about celebrating our oceans or, more than likely, SAVING our oceans, remember that it’s not just about a boat trip on a Sunday afternoon. There’s life in that ocean and our lives depend on it.