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New Fluorescent Aussie Corals Help Cancer Research

Posted on Friday, January 14th, 2011 at 9:16 am by

Lord Howe Marine Park coral photographed at night. Photo courtesy of the University of Western Sydney

Who wouldn’t want one of these neon beauties in their reef? This photo was shot with nothing more than a blue light torch. Imagine it underneath some LEDs.

Researchers at Lord Howe Island Marine Park have discovered an extremely fluorescent coral community that will now be used in cancer research. Dr. Anya Salih, a Scientist with the University of Western Sydney said that the corals were found in underwater reefs near the northern end of th World Heritage Island.

The scientists were there studying a mass-bleaching that had occurred earlier in the year due to sudden changes in the seawater’s temperature when they stumbled upon a community of highly fluorescent corals that showed no signs of bleaching. The corals were at a shockingly shallow depth for their immense vibrancy. Most highly fluorescent corals are found in deep waters underneath overhangs or in caverns, these corals were out in the open. The corals are also oddly abundant which is so rare considering their location.

Dr Salih said coral specimens from the marine park would now be tested in her lab for new types of fluorescent labels that under special laser microscopes would be used to follow individual molecules to decipher what happens inside living healthy or cancerous cells.

“We are using these pigments to light up the workings of living cells and to study what goes wrong in cancer cells.”

Read the full article to get the full scope of this amazing discovery and to keep up with the Dr. Salih’s advancements.

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