An Ancient Underwater Forest Could Support Medicine Research
The discovery of an underwater forest near the Gulf of Mexico is to be studied to review how medicines may be developed in the future. The forest includes various bacteria that may be critical to the development of new medicines in the future. Bacterial discoveries from prior wood samples have been used to find information on different things.
Where Is the Forest?
The underwater forest is about sixty feet deep under the coast of Mobile Bay in Alabama in the United States. The site has been explored on occasion. But it has not been until recently that further details on the growths in the area were found.
Scientists from the University of Utah and Northeastern University went on a deeper trip into the area with support from NOAA this December. The area was studied further with some wood samples having been brought out from the area.
The forest features remnants of cypress trees that grew near a river off of the Gulf of Mexico. The trees appear to be at least 60,000 years old. The fallen trees were buried under sediment and were covered further as sea levels rose. It wasn’t until Hurricane Ivan came through the area in 2004 that the sediment was swept away to reveal many of the trees.
The wood around the forest appears to be well-preserved despite its age. The wood had been buried under enough sediment to prevent oxygen from decomposing the material.
The Key Medical Discovery
What makes this critical for medicine is that the wood features shipworms. These are clams that convert wood into animal tissue. The bacteria inside the shipworms in the wood are unique. The compounds are unlike any other bacterial form that has been studied over the years.
There are about a hundred strains of bacteria in the wood. A few are going through DNA sequencing to review how well they might work in the process of developing new drugs.
Shipworm bacteria have been part of prior studies over the years. The bacteria have helped in the development of some treatments, most notably a drug that can treat parasitic infections.
There is no telling how the bacteria may work. Some bacteria may help in developing anti-cancer drugs and pain relief medications. The key would be to complete enough research to see how well the human body responds to some treatments that come about in the future. It may take years for these discoveries to come to full fruition, although the preliminary discoveries so far have been encouraging.
Possible Future Explorations
There is a chance for the underwater forest outside Alabama to be explored further. Future plans include the use of robots that can go underwater and capture three-dimensional images of the area. The hope is to look at the composure of the trees and to potentially gather more samples to see if there are other discoveries of value. There is a chance for many things to happen in the future, especially when it comes to how the wood in the underwater forest has been well-preserved over the years.