Research team collecting Phuket corals mistaken as poachers
PHUKET: A group of six researchers studying the possibility of corals containing the key to curing cancer were mistaken as coral poachers by recreational divers at the popular Phuket dive spot Koh Dok Mai on Monday.
“The divers were using tools to remove hard and soft corals and fans from the wall on the east side of Koh Dok Mai,” explained a concerned dive professional earlier this week, before the intentions of the divers were established.
Over all, 95 corals off Koh Dok Mai were collected during the one-off venture, which is a joint project by research teams from the United States and Thailand, explained Dr Prasat Kittakoop from the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI).
The CRI along with the United States’ Developmental Therapeutics Program’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, and the National Cancer Institute are all working together on the project.
“We are currently screening synthetic compounds and natural product materials derived from plants, marine micro-organisms and marine macro-organisms as potential sources of novel anticancer drugs,” Dr Prasat said.
“Once we screen the marine animals, we will know which marine invertebrates have potential compounds to battle cancer.”
It would be unnecessary to collect further samples, as any anticancer compounds identified could be recreated in the lab, he said.
“The samples are expected to arrive in the US soon for screening,” Dr Prasat added.
Dr Prasat assured those concerned that the number of corals collected would not have an impact on the sustainability of the Koh Dok Mai ecosystem and would not affect the beauty of the dive site.
— Chutharat Plerin
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