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Substances from snow algae are the new hope for natural antibiotics
There are many antibiotic plants in nature that have always been used against bacterial infectious diseases. Researchers from Germany have found promising substances in snow algae. According to the scientists, they can be used to design a completely new antibiotic. However, the algae grow under extremely cold conditions. The snow algae grow in polar and alpine areas. They color glaciers and snow regions in red.
Snow algae color the snow red
For a long time, the "red snow" was a secret. Only a few years ago, intensive research revealed that microscopic algae are responsible for the color. When they start to bloom, the snow turns green and then red. The researchers called the new discovery "snow algae". Upon closer examination, other interesting aspects emerged.
Algae could be a natural antibiotic
Snow algae are currently the great hope of medical scientists. The researchers have reason to suspect that algae from cold regions can be used to produce antibiotic medicine. Because life forms that thrive in very extreme weather conditions often contain valuable substances for medicine. In the case of algae, it is primarily the ice-structuring proteins (ISP) that are of great interest. The doctors suspect a context between the protein ISP and so-called fungal antibodies. It could be that the experts have found herbal substances that work identically to antibiotics.
Research director is Thomas Leya from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technology IBMT. He is a biologist and examines the algae. "They contain astaxanthin. It is a pigment that the cold-loving algae form in a persistence stage of their complex life cycle and turns them red. They exist in an environment with extreme living conditions and therefore synthesize extraordinary metabolic products," the expert told the newspaper "Welt" .
Extreme temperatures lead to survival strategies
Snow algae can survive extreme sub-zero temperatures. But that also means that breeding will be more difficult. "They thrive best at two degrees Celsius," it says. The algae die from 10 degrees. Because the glaciers continue to erode due to the general climate change, it could be that there will soon be no more snow algae. Research must therefore quickly find ways to grow the algae so as not to endanger the scientific work. (sb)
Image: Katharina Wieland Müller / pixelio.de