The marine environment is a rich source and several chemical and biological compounds, which can be used for properties purposes - including drug production. Currently, only a few products are derived from marine organisms, however, an increasing number of metabolites with diverse pharmacological properties have been discovered in recent years.1
Werner Bergmann was one of the pioneers in the study of natural marine products in the 1950s, isolating nucleosides from the Caribbean sponge Tethya crypta (Tethylidae). From despongouridine and spongothymidine - which contained an arabinose sugar instead of ribose - it was possible to synthesize analogs, such as adenine-arabinoside (ara-A) and cytosine arabinoside (ara-C).2
The discovery of other substances has been described since then, but currently, only 4 drugs are in clinical use: anticancer [ara-C (Cytarabine®) and trabectedin (Yondelis®)], antiviral [ara-A (Vidarabina®)] and neuropathic analgesic [ziconotide (Prialt®)].1
Ara-C e Ara-A: They are drugs with anticancer and antiviral actions, respectively. Ara-C is used mainly in the therapy of acute non-lymphoblastic leukemia, while ara-A is used in the form of eye drops to treat ophthalmic infections with the Herpes simplex virus, through the inhibition of cell division when incorporated into DNA. lead to inhibition of the synthesis process and consequent blocking of proliferation.2, 3
Trabectedin: It is an alkaloid isolated from the Caribbean ascidian Ecteinascidia turbinata. This molecule binds to guanine specific sequences in the double helix resulting in a fold in the DNA strands, which can activate or inhibit certain genes. The TC-NER repair pathway is also mentioned as a key pathway in cell death induced by trabectedin.2, 3
Ziconotide: It is an analgesic peptide with 25 amino acids, isolated from the mollusk Conus Magnus. It selectively blocks specific calcium channels (type N) in type A-δ and types C nociceptive fibers in blades I and II of the dorsal roots of the mammalian nerve cord. The sensitivity of type C fibers reflects the antinociceptive potential of ziconotide - which is a thousand times more potent than morphine. Unlike opioids, which lead to neuromodulation and consequent desensitization, treatment with ziconotide does not induce tolerance after continuous use.2, 3
In conclusion, drugs derived from marine organisms have great potential due to the diversity of molecular targets with marked selectivity (ion channels, enzymes, microtubules, DNA, lysosomes, calmodulin, proteasomes, in addition to inducing oxidative stress and modulating the immune system) presenting a major impact mainly on cancer treatment. Despite this, there is toxicity associated with its use as a major limiting factor - in addition to the difficulty in finding ways of isolation and purification. It is expected that, over the years, effective treatment with the use of drugs derived from marine organisms will become reality.
 Kijjoa, A.; Sawangwong, P. Drugs, and Cosmetics from the Sea. Mar. Drugs 2004, 2, 73-82.
 Costa-Lotufo, Letícia Veras, Wilke, Diego Veras, Jimenez, Paula Christine, & Epifanio, Rosângela de A.. (2009). Organismos marinhos como fonte de novos fármacos: histórico & perspectivas. Química Nova, 32(3), 703-716. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0100-40422009000300014
 Khalifa SAM, Elias N, Farag MA, Chen L, Saeed A, Hegazy MF, Moustafa MS, Abd El-Wahed A, Al-Mousawi SM, Musharraf SG, Chang FR, Iwasaki A, Suenaga K, Alajlani M, Göransson U, El-Seedi HR. Marine Natural Products: A Source of Novel Anticancer Drugs. Mar Drugs. 2019 Aug 23;17(9):491. doi: 10.3390/md17090491. PMID: 31443597; PMCID: PMC6780632.
Authors: Gabrielle Gimenes and @th_carolina 🙂