Kiel eye researcher and KMS member Alexa Klettner (UKSH) contributes brown algae research to EU project AlgaeProBanos
Brown algae play an important role in the ecosystems of the North and Baltic Seas, are among the largest marine algae, and are considered to be highly adaptable to changing environmental conditions. In addition to their importance for a healthy ecosystem and as a habitat for marine communities, brown algae have unique characteristics with high potential for the development of medical applications. For example, brown algae such as bladderwrack contain fucoidans, substances with anti-inflammatory effects that could potentially be used in the future to treat previously incurable age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's or the eye disease age-related macular degeneration.
Within the framework of the new European innovation and research initiative AlgaeProBanos, CAU Professor Alexa Klettner from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel (UKSH) is playing a key role in a project in which the marine compounds of the brown alga are being tested in the laboratory and on model organisms for their neuroprotective properties. Klettner is receiving funding of around half a million euros for her research, which is also supported by the Kiel Marine Science (KMS) priority research area at Kiel University and the Medical Faculty of the CAU.
Cooperation in a large network
"With the European funding, we can proceed to the next steps in our research and test the substances on model organisms," says Alexa Klettner, Professor of Experimental Retinology at the Medical Faculty of Kiel University, who has already identified the anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic and antioxidant properties of brown algae in the German-Danish InterReg project "FucoSan - Health from the Sea" and subsequent projects.
The results so far show that long-chain sugar molecules from the brown algae (fucoidans) have an antioxidant effect in cultured cells of the retina eye cells, can dampen inflammatory reactions and halt the formation of new blood vessels. These processes are thought to be the main pathomechanisms of age-related macular degeneration. While considerable research is still needed, researchers like Klettner hope that fucoidans, if used in time, could slow the progression of the disease and preserve patients' eyesight in the long term. "In the new project, we are looking forward to international collaboration in a large network with practitioners and European companies. We expect to gain important insights into the feasibility of marine products in ophthalmology," said Klettner.
AlgaeProBanos: One of the largest projects funded by the EU
The umbrella project AlgaeProBanos, which is funded by the European Union as part of the EU Horizon Mission "Restore our Ocean and Waters", brings together a total of 26 partners from science and industry from ten European countries in the Baltic and North Sea regions. They aim to use algae for new and high value-added products and services in a wide range of areas, such as the food and feed industry, food supplements, textiles, cosmetics or medical products.
AlgaeProBanos contributes to the lighthouse initiative Blue Mission BANOS and is coordinated by the SUBMARINER network. With a total volume of more than 12 million euros, it is one of the largest projects funded by the EU and aims to contribute to a carbon-neutral and circular blue economy in Europe.
Prof. Alexa Klettner
Clinic for Ophthalmology of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel