Most who have lived near a lake or stream are likely familiar with cyanobacteria; more commonly known as toxic algae blooms. They’re caused by an overproduction of nutrients due to a combination of warm temperatures and stagnant water. Runoff containing fertilizer and other chemicals have also been speculated contributors. The mucky, blue-green algae has been in existence for billions of years and is considered not only one of the oldest, but also one of the more resilient organisms. Although impressive, it’s still considered toxic and can be harmful if touched or ingested by humans and animals causing several unpleasant side effects. Warnings are usually posted and communities are alerted to avoid swimming until the blooms have passed.
Luckily, some good may be derived from the bad. According to Innovationorigin.com, Potential for Medicine and Biotechnology: Cyanobacteria a team of German scientists are working on doing just that. Similar to its moldy nemesis, penicillium, cyanobacteria could offer promising and beneficial contributions to biotechnology and may even be utilized for it’s potential antiviral, anticancer, and antibacterial properties.
The team of researchers plan to sequence 40 uncommon cyanobacteria from approximately 2000 species. One member of the team, Professor Tobias Gulder, discusses the importance of focusing on these under-researched microorganisms as they could play a valuable part in the discovery of novel drug candidates, especially with the decreasing of natural resources and the rising threat of novel viruses. Their research focuses on the less-common forms of cyanobacteria, their genetic potential, and the active substances formed by them. In summary, they want to analyze the genome of the active substances and then translate the results to discover new drug molecules with the use of biotechnology. They then want to be able to reproduce the active components to ensure sustainability.
Given the established history and accessibility of cyanobacteria with it being an organism that can be found in many areas of the world (and not only in water), further research and development of it’s properties would lend itself to being easily studied and it’s components easily cultivated. With natural resources growing more scarce, the current research being done in Germany will hopefully bring valuable findings that may help fight against threats such as cancer and even the recent novel Coronavirus.