Algae have proven to be experts in molecular warfare with bacteria – and now is the time to apply that expertise to drug discovery and development.
Andrew Dahl |
Certain algal species have been cultivated in Asia as both a source of nutrition and as a traditional medicine for centuries. What most people don’t realize is that algae range in size from microscopic cells floating in freshwater, to the huge kelp beds off the California coast, and everything in between. The very smallest, as you can imagine, are referred to as microalgae, and most of the green stuff people consider seaweed is technically macroalgae. About 72,000 species of algae are known – and in my view there are probably double that number yet to be discovered and classified. Of that enormous number, only about a dozen are being cultivated commercially anywhere in the world. Algae can be cultivated in natural and artificial ponds, on wooden frames set in estuaries, in photobioreactors and fermentation tanks. There’s plenty of opportunity to cultivate something that has never been grown or consumed by humans or animals, and some of these could be very useful for new pharmaceuticals.
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