Overview: While new treatments for cancer and viral diseases have increased survival rates, these treatments carry a degree of toxicity due to the inability to specifically target infected cells without affecting surrounding healthy cells. To help prevent the spread of the disease, infected cells are typically instructed by the body to undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death. New drug treatments aim to exploit this biomechanism by enhancing apoptosis signaling in infected cells. Identification and purification of apoptosis-inducing molecules could provide useful bioactive compositions for modulating apoptosis in human diseases.
Technology: Marine algae represent a potential source of bioactive compounds. When infected with a virus, algae produce sphingosine-like lipids which demonstrate apoptotic effects highly similar to mammalian anti-viral mechanisms. These lipids can potentially be isolated from virally infected algae and manufactured into a pharmaceutical treatment to help prevent the progression of cancer, viral infections, and other diseases. This technology has identified potential bioactive lipids and provides a method for identification of additional apoptotic compounds.