Animals News

Seaweed To The Rescue, From Renewable Energy To COVID-19 Treatment


Published on July 25th, 2020 |
by Tina Casey

July 25th, 2020 by Tina Casey 
Renewable energy researchers have been turning to seaweed as a source of biofuel, and while that’s bubbling up in the background, the COVID-19 crisis has brought renewed attention to the all-around sustainability aspect of harvesting renewable resources from the sea. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some new developments in the field of seaweed, aka macroalgae.
Seaweed For COVID-19 Treatment, Possibly
Scaled-up seaweed farming on the horizon for biofuel and COVID-19 treatment, too (image by Renesslaer Polytechnic University via YouTube).

No. Do not run out and buy random seaweed to treat yourself for COVID-19 symptoms. However, new research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York does indicate that an extract from seaweed could “substantially” outperform the current go-to COVID-19 treatment, remdesavir.
The paper is available online at the journal Cell Discovery under the title, “Sulfated polysaccharides effectively inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in vitro.“
That’s in vitro, not in people, meaning that the research is still in early stages. Nevertheless, it is promising. The Renneslaer team deploys a “decoy” approach that has worked on dengue, Zika, and Influenza A, among other viruses.
The decoy material distracts the virus from latching onto human cells, and locks the virus into a safe space where it can degrade harmlessly.
COVID-19 Treatment, Seaweed Edition
For those of you keeping score at home, the seaweed extract used in the study consists of several variations of the common anticoagulent heparin.
And this is where it gets interesting. Heparin has been manufactured for 100 years or so, but almost all of it has been derived from animals, not seaweed. Our friends over at the National Institutes of Health journal Molecules have the backstory.
“The purification of heparin from offal is an o
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