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September 23, 2017

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Antarctic research team discover anti-inflammatory substances

By Grace Soong--After acquiring over 600 various biological specimens on excursions to the Antarctic over the past three years, a team of Taiwanese scientists yesterday claimed to have discovered anti-inflammatory substances that have higher efficacies than any existing medications.

The research team, co-organized by the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium (國立海洋生物博物館), National Dong Hwa University (東華大學), Chen Shiu University (正修科技大學), and National Sun Yat-sen University (中山大學), sends two people per year to the Antarctic between October and December, when it is summer at the most southern end of the Earth.

In contrast to past Antarctic excursions which saw Taiwan cooperate with foreign researchers, this is the very first time Taiwan has sent its own Antarctic research team and held complete initiative over its actions, the team staff said.

Inflammation Substances in Antarctic Creatures

The team has brought over 600 biological specimens of 49 different kinds, including fish, mollusks, annelids, echinoderms, crustaceans, coelenterates, and poriferas, back to Taiwan from their excursions over the past three years. It was from the Antarctic soft sponges and the Antarctic sea urchins that anti-inflammatory substances of exceptional efficacy were extracted.

After thorough literature research, the team revealed that its discovery of such substances in Antarctic creatures which should be the first ever worldwide.

Soong Bing-jun (宋秉鈞), a researcher at the marine biology museum, explained that the operation mechanism behind the newly discovered substances extracted from sea urchins and sponges is that they have the capacity to suppress the exertion of superoxide anions and a kind of protease that the human body naturally creates but causes inflammations.

The team is currently analyzing the components of the anti-inflammatory substances in the hope of genetically modifying or even creating them from scratch. If the process is too complicated, the team will consider cultivating the sea urchins and sponges in Taiwan, Soong said.

Dioxin in Antarctic Penguins

The team announced that it discovered dioxin in tissue samples collected from Antarctic penguins. That dioxin, the byproduct of humans' industrialization processes and known as the century poison, indicates that the pollution from industrialization has invaded even the once-pristine Antarctic by spreading through the food chain.

It is likely that it was from big fish, which ate small fish and shrimp, which had consumed dioxin-polluted microbes, that the penguins had been poisoned. Dioxin is a waste product that biological bodies cannot easily exert, the Taiwanese researches said.

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