A type of fluorescent shallow-water corals found at the Lord Howe Island, 400 miles east of Australia could lend vital health-beneficial clue in the development of potential cancer-fighting drugs and may shed light to the understanding of global warming, says researcher from the University of Western Sydney.
The corals display rich red colors - are hard to find and are high in demand for cancer cell studies, said Anya Salih, researcher at the University.
According to Salih the underwater caverns are densely populated with hundreds of corals, all highly pigmented with green, blue and a whole lot with red fluorescence.
Fluorescent pigments of corals are used by scientists to light up the workings of living cells and to study what goes wrong in cancer cells.
By attaching the gene that produces a specific treatment to a molecule in both healthy and cancerous cells, scientists would be able to observe cell growth and change through the use of fluorescent-sensitive laser microscope.
Working with researchers from the University of California, Salih is trying to understand the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells and create drugs that are effective in eliminating cancerous cells.
The red pigments are particularly vital, said Salih as they offer insights into the workings of deeper tissues.
The corals were stumbled upon along the Lord Howe Island while the scientists were following the recovery of coral bleaching associated with the global warming effects at the island.
Salih stressed that the corals are vital not just for cancer research but also for a fuller grasp of the climate change understanding.
Sudden mass bleaching of the coral reefs was observed earlier this year due to increasing temperatures of seawater.
Salih said, It's a sign that global warming is beginning to be a threat to coral survival even to the most southern reefs in Australia.
The fluorescent corals were not affectedly negatively by the bleaching, thus providing the researchers with a hypothesis that fluorescence offers some level of protection to corals from temperature fluctuations due to climate change, said Salih.