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Sea snails could have medicinal purposes


Steve Spinks
5 November 2012
A workshop for the development of natural medicines from the Muricidae family of sea snail will be conducted at Southern Cross University this week (November 5 to 9).

Muricidae has already been found to contain cancer-fighting properties as well being used for gynaecological problems in India 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.

Scientists will visit Southern Cross Univeristy’s National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, the Lismore campus and the Bribie Island Marine Station during the workshop. This project is supported by the Australian Government under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

“Marine molluscs from the Muricidae family are the source for a natural remedy called Murex,” said workshop organiser Dr Kirsten Benkendorff, a co-deputy director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre and senior lecturer in 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. 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.

“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.

“An intellectual property agreement will be developed to facilitate collaborative funding applications to progress this research.”

Photo: Dr Kirsten Benkendorff.