Bacteria that are effective in treating atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions have been discovered more than 10,000 meters under the sea.
The discovery was made by a group of researchers at the state-run Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, who announced their findings Friday.
They told Kyodo News that they are the first bacteria ever discovered that can be used to treat skin ailments.
The researchers also said they have discovered about 10 other kinds of useful bacteria. One type, which was found at a depth of about 6,300 meters in the Sea of Japan, can be used to treat diabetes and obesity.
The center, an affiliate of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, is joining efforts with major pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs using the bacteria. Experts say the findings open vast possibilities for utilizing deep-sea resources.
The bacteria effective in treating skin conditions were extracted from soil collected by the center’s remote-operated deep-sea research vehicle Kaiko from 10,897 meters below sea level in waters 300 km southwest of Guam in March 1996.
The researchers said they found last year that the bacteria secretes organic compounds that have nonsteroid anti-inflammatory effects and improve immunity.
“Only Japan has deep-sea probes that can submerge to 10,000 meters,” said Susumu Ito, the center’s director. “It is difficult to find new kinds of useful bacteria on land. But deep in the sea, a surprising amount can be found.”
Researchers also found another kind of bacteria that secrete organic compounds preventing the creation of large lipocytes, which hinder the functioning of insulin. The bacteria, found in soil collected in the Japan Trench off Miyagi Prefecture by the center’s manned submersible, the Shinkai-6500, are expected to contribute to the development of drugs to treat diabetes and obesity.
The various types of deep-sea bacteria were found to be different from most bacteria on land. As the newly discovered bacteria can withstand temperatures of up to 60 to 70 degrees, the researchers said they are able to be processed at high temperatures to make the useful ingredients into powdered form.
The Kaiko, consisting of a 5.2-meter launcher and a 3.1-meter vehicle, had the world’s deepest diving capability, to a maximum 11,000 meters.
The vehicle component, which carries five television cameras and one photo camera, was lost in late May during an underwater mission at Cape Muroto off southern Shikoku.
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