Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, March 04, 2003

New Anti-cancer Substances Found in Devilfish

Chinese scientists claim to have discovered substances with anti-cancer properties in the devilfish, a large deep-sea creature.


Chinese scientists claim to have discovered substances with anti-cancer properties in the devilfish, a large deep-sea creature.

The research was initiated seven years ago by the marine biology research center of the Institute of Naval Medical Sciencesof the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and a Shanghai-based biological company named "Aobo". Traditionally, residents of coastal areas used the devilfish to cure measles, toothaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, scabies, injuries from falls and diseasesassociated with pregnancy.

The anti-cancer substances in devilfish are currently being developed into medicines, said Shen Xianrong, director of the research center, adding that many deep-sea species contain a variety of rare substances due to their deep-water environments, which are highly-pressurized, extremely saline, acidic, alkaline, hot, cold, dark and largely devoid of nutrition.

Like many other deep-sea species, the devilfish looks odd, withits large elliptical body and thin, long tail. The creatures move in groups of three and four at high speed, except when they encounter enemies, in which case they leap up out of the water and"fly" over the sea.

In conducting the research, as a first step, scientists extracted active substances from the brain and blended them with avariety of cancer cells. The substances impeded the growth of cancer cells very effectively, while they had no effect on healthycells.

In another experiment, scientists implanted cancer cells into the hypoderm of mice and then fed one group with normal saline andanother group with water containing the extract from devilfish. Two weeks later, the tumors of the first group of mice averaged above two grams, wile the second group's tumors weighed between 0.2 and 0.8 grams.

In recent years, scientists worldwide have begun to focus on sea resources in their search for new medicines. The sea is home to about 200,000 kinds of creatures, or 80 percent of all species known to man.

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