Topics:  muricidae, national marine science centre, sea snails, southern cross university

The cancer fighting properties of sea snails

Southern Cross University's Dr Kirsten Benkendorff investigating the medicinal properties of a family of sea snails.
Southern Cross University's Dr Kirsten Benkendorff investigating the medicinal properties of a family of sea snails.

THE medicinal properties of sea snails, which contain cancer fighting compounds, will be the focus of a workshop at Southern Cross University this week.

The Muricidae family of sea snails contain cancer fighting properties and are also used in India to treat gynaecological problems.

So a team of scientists from around Australia and India will meet to strategically develop a collaborative research project to scientifically test and optimise the medicines from the predatory sea snail.

"Marine molluscs from the Muricidae family are the source for a natural remedy called Murex," said Dr Kirsten Benkendorff of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University's School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

"The Murex remedy and tincture is currently used to treat a range of gynaecological problems in India, but has never been scientifically tested for efficacy.

As part of this week's workshop, running through to Friday, scientists will investigate the development of natural medicines from the Muricidae sea snails.

Researchers will visit Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour, the university's Lismore campus along with the Bribie Island Marine Station. 

"This workshop will capitalise on the expertise in preclinical and clinical testing of complementary and alternative medicines at Southern Cross University and build on recent research into the biological activity of Muricidae natural products at Flinders University," Dr Benkendorff said.

"It is very exciting to be involved in a workshop like this to find out specifically what other people have been using Muricidae for in other countries like India.

"They have used Muricidae as a last resort before surgery on patients suffering from a prolapsed uterus.

"It's also listed for use against uterine cancer.

"Why I am excited is that I've been researching Australian Muricidae and their cancer fighting properties for the past 10 years and I know how difficult it can be to get a new anti-cancer agent nationally accepted like this.

"But now there is an international precedent for use and they have been using it as a tincture (undiluted remedy) so we should be able to detect if any of the same bioactive compounds are present in the Indian remedy," she said.



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