A rare community of highly fluorescent corals discovered in shallow waters in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park in New South Wales, Australia, could provide insights into how some corals cope with global warming, as well as pave the way for future cancer research. Anya Salih of the University of Western Sydney will use pigments from the corals to develop new fluorescent labels to help track the inner workings of cells and study what goes wrong in cancer.
The gene that gives the coral its color gets attached to the cell molecule, lighting it up. The activity of that molecule, as the cell grows and changes, can then be followed under a special laser microscope using the fluorescence it gives off. Red was in particular demand because it allowed researchers to see deeper into tissues, said Salih, who is collaborating with cancer researchers overseas, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Lord Howe Island Marine Park manager Ian Kerr said the scientifically important discovery was a good example of why biodiversity in the ocean needed to be protected.