Hope in a coral reef

Hope in a coral reef

Organism could help fight diseases and repair bone

By Linda Homewood

A promising medicinal compound discovered in a marine organism by UF pharmacy researchers is showing its versatility against multiple diseases.

Having already demonstrated its power as an anti tumor agent, largazole, produced by a cyanobacterium inhabiting coral reefs, has shown a new potential benefit for treating serious fractures, osteoporosis and other bone diseases, according to a study reported in the journal ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters online.

Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the UF College of Pharmacy, discovered the marine compound in Key Largo and reported initial findings in 2008.

After understanding largazole’s properties and cellular mechanism of action, Luesch, a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center, put it to the test against cancer cells with promising results. The researchers published their findings on largazole’s effectiveness against colon cancer last fall. Since then, Luesch and collaborators in South Korea have unlocked largazole’s medical potential for bone regeneration.

Tests show that largazole has an unusual dual action of repairing injured or diseased bone and also blocking bone degeneration. These benefits stem from largazole’s effects on an enzyme class called histone deacetylases, or HDACs, which serve as a control switch for protein production. Overactivity of HDACs can lead to the silencing of important genes and consequently disease, Luesch said. He sees HDAC inhibition as a promising strategy to reactivate suppressed genes in diseased cells.

The current research also showed that largazole, in a mix with a synthetic biomaterial containing collagen and calcium phosphate used for bone grafting, helped heal fractured bones.