Blue-green algae as a remedy

The medical aspects of blue-green algae and birch bark have been investigated as part of an extensive, EU-funded ProKinase research project.

Blue-green algae as a remedy

In regard to blue-green algae, the usual topics discussed are the algae rafts swelling in the Gulf of Finland. Blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, are known to be poisonous. Their possible healing impact is a lesser-known fact.

The collection of over one thousand cyanobacterial strains of the University of Helsinki has international significance.

“Cyanobakteria are interesting because, only recently, we have learned to cultivate them. They contain a large number of unknown substances,” says Kaarina Sivonen, Academy Professor.

The poison in blue-green algae influences protein kinases, albumen that regulate the functioning of cells. Many diseases are caused by the deviant functioning of protein kinases. Pharmaceuticals targeting protein kinases are used for the treatment of leukemia, for example.

In the future, the aim is to develop similar pharmaceuticals for more diseases. Birch might be a suitable source for a new pharmaceutical for leishmania, which is common in the developing countries. It is an infectious disease, spread by a parasite that uses a female sandfly as its intermediary host.

“As much as one-third of birch bark consists of betulin. Its derivatives have been produced in Viikki and tested in Jerusalem with a promising outcome,” Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma says.

The medical aspects of blue-green algae and birch bark have been investigated as part of an extensive, EU-funded ProKinase research project.

The multi-disciplinary project is based on long-term research.

“At the kick-off, the operations were supported by a solid confidence in Finnish universities and researchers. As a result of the project, entirely new cooperation has been established,” says Professor Raimo K. Tuominen, coordinator of the project.

The five-year project is coordinated by the University of Helsinki. The project involves twelve European countries and over 200 researchers. The concluding seminar of the ProKinase research project will take place in Helsinki from 1–4 July.

Read more:

A tiny bottled creature (HUB)

The ProteinKinase-Research Consortium

Text: Anna-Kaisa Kontinaho
Photo: Finnish Environment Institute
2.7.2009
www.helsinki.fi/verkkotoimitus


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