Seeking Cures in Antarctica

I have a good friend working on his PhD in Chemistry who is currently in Antarctica doing research that was just covered by the Discovery Channel. He spends much of his time analyzing samples in Palmer Station, one of the few research stations on the frigid continent. He also takes part in collecting dives, where he and his colleagues find and collect rare and unusual specimens from the sea. The lead researcher, Bill Baker, was interviewed for a brief piece on Discovery News that describes some of the work they're doing:
In the tissue of the kelp Gigartina skottsbergii Baker has found chemicals that have broad antiviral properties. Marine plants from the genus Gigartina are already used in natural medicine supplements as a flu fighter. But over-the-counter products haven't undergone rigorous clinical testing.

Baker's tests show that the protein from G. skottsbergii is particularly effective against the H1N1 "swine flu" strain, among others. It doesn't kill the virus directly, but disrupts its ability to infect healthy cells, which could prove immensely valuable as a treatment to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.
While it remains uncommon for the team to find new active compounds, their work has found some promising leads. This is interesting to us here at Recycled Minds for a number of reasons, but foremost is because this type of research is novel, and does not rely on the knowledge of others (especially less-advantaged groups) to succeed. Much natural product and botanical research is conduced in highly diverse regions like tropical forests, which are also home to many of the world's indigenous populations. Indigenous peoples are often utilized in the aid of such research, but rarely see any of the benefits of their knowledge. Research like that being conducted in Antarctica is forging new paths of knowledge seeking, leaving the controversies to others.

Read the entire Discovery News Piece here>>>
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