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Monday, August 10, 2009

Coral painkillers - bad news for scuba divers?

Researchers have discovered that a compound harvested from soft coral off the coast of Taiwan could provide a new treatment for pain from damage.

A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests Capnella imbricata, or Kenya Tree Coral, could provide relief where traditional painkillers can't.

Dr Zhi-Hong Wen from the National Sun Yat-Sen University has been testing a chemical isolated from soft coral collected at Green Island, a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean.

More studies are now needed to see if this could offer a new way to treat the condition.

Dr Wen said: "Today there are few pharmacological agents that can help people suffering from neuropathic pain, but we believe that these marine-derived compounds could lead to the development of a new range of drugs of great potential."

Which leads to an interesting dichotomy. Coral reefs are already under threat from a multitude of different sources, rising sea temperatures, increased acidity, pollution, coastal development, over fishing, crap divers.

Hell, the doomsayers say the Great Barrier Reef will be gone in 20 years due to warmer waters, whereas I say the Red Sea reefs will be gone in the same time due to clod-hopping foreign f**kwits who walk all over it or crash into it.

But if corals offer a potential pharmaceutical benefit, do the world's powers start taking the issues that affect our oceans more seriously in order to preserve the coral reefs? In which case we might all benefit.

OR do they simply plunder the world's reef systems that are so crucial to the planet's health and well-being for a short term gain as has befallen Africa and any number of important rainforests?

I know which one my money's on and I'm gonna make sure I dive the Far East in the none too distant future - while there is still something of Mother Nature that is inspiring to see.

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