Seaweed may reduce tissue damage in organ transplants

Researchers at Trinity College find possible anti-inflammatory drug in ordinary seaweed

Compounds in seaweed may be used to prevent tissue damage in transplant patients

Compounds in seaweed may be used to prevent tissue damage in transplant patients


Scientists are searching for promising new drugs in the most unusual of places, from the depths of the ocean floor to the contents of an infant’s nappy.

The goal is to discover substances that have a useful biological effect, for example new kinds of antibiotics, heart medicines and anti-cancer agents.

Dr Sharee Basdeo is involved in this research and is part of a group that discovered a possible new drug in ordinary seaweed to help reduce tissue damage caused by a transplant operation.

She is a research scientist in the school of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College Dublin and is funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

“We are looking at compounds coming from Irish seaweed,” she said. They found one that looks promising as a natural, non-toxic treatment for patients who receive an organ transplant.

Tissue damage can occur in transplanted organs when a blood supply is restored to the tissues. Known as “reperfusion injury”, it triggers inflammation and oxidative stress.

The substance found in seaweed has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also has strong anti-oxidant effects, Dr Basdeo said.

She has been testing it with cultured human cell lines to confirm it has useful properties, and now the team hopes to develop it as a commercial treatment.

“What we hope to do is use in-vitro models for the next step,” she said. She is hoping to raise “proof of concept” funding from Enterprise Ireland so that the discovery can be commercialised. “Thinking outside the box is what scientists have to do today,” she said.

What’s on today as part of Science Week Maths Magic: Experimenting with ways of producing shock, surprise and magic (with a little help from maths). 10am, faculty of science and engineering, University of Limerick.