Galway Bay’s murky water may benefit cancer patients

Famed in song around the world for its beauty, research on murkier aspects of water from Galway Bay could have benefits for cancer patients and people suffering from extreme pain.

Although invisible to the human eye, microscopic algae from the bay have been manipulated by scientists at NUI Galway in an effort to help design more effective delivery of drugs.

The outcome could mean getting therapeutics more directly to the affected area of the body, as well as slow-release mechanisms that could reduce the need for multiple doses of cancer treatment or pain relief drugs that can have harmful side-effects.

PhD student Yvonne Lang started on the project four years ago, cultivating the algae, called diatoms, in the lab, then altering and tailoring their chemistry with a view to finding ways the structures could be used in drug delivery to patients.

“I went out and got buckets of water from Galway Bay, then back to the lab where I identified a number of species of diatom and isolated one in particular,” said Ms Yang.

“It’s very labour-intensive work but the next step is to harness this natural resource for preparing bio-materials for delivery of therapeutics.”

The work on the Science Foundation Ireland-funded project is detailed in the latest edition of the journal Nature Communications.

Ms Lang said it is the first published research where living diatoms have been worked on and changed, rather than simply replicated in the lab.


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