Could starfish hold a cure for inflammation?

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Could starfish hold a cure for inflammation?

October 12, 2011 - 22:31
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British scientists believe the spiny starfish could hold the key to finding a new treatment for inflammatory conditions such as asthma, hay fever and arthritis.

Spiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis)

While many inflammatory conditions can be effectively treated, for example with steroids, these drugs can often cause unwanted side effects. But scientists at King’s College London think starfish could offer a better solution.

The researchers are particularly interested in the slimy goo that covers the body. They say chemicals in this coating could inspire new medicines. While most man-made structures that are placed in the water rapidly get caked with a mixture of marine life, starfish manage to keep their surface clear. It is this non-stick property that has grabbed medical scientists’ attention.

Sticky issue

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury or infection, but inflammatory conditions are caused when the immune system begins to rage out of control. White blood cells, which normally flow easily through our blood vessels, begin to build up and stick to the blood vessel wall, and this can cause tissue damage.

The idea is that a treatment based on starfish slime could effectively coat our blood vessels in the same way the goo covers the marine creature, and prevent this problem.

Starfish are better than Teflon: they have a very efficient anti-fouling surface that prevents things from sticking.

—Dr Charlie Bavington- GlycoMar, a marine biotechnology company based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban

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