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Life-saving limpets?

2 November 2017

Pembrokeshire coast

A Welsh biotech company is working with Cardiff University to study two potentially life-saving biomaterials in slipper limpets.

Mikota is working with two academic groups in the University to examine proteins contained in the sea snails.

Slipper limpets are believed to have arrived in Wales on the hulls of US ships during the Second World War. They contain both hemocyanin and collagen. The former has potential for the treatment of breast and bladder cancer, and the latter can be used in regenerative therapies such as bone and nerve repair.

Alex Mühlhölzl, Chief Executive of Mikota, said: "Collagen is found in virtually every living organism, but what's different about the marine collagen from slipper limpets is that it's stable at a range of temperatures in line with collagen from cows, pigs and humans. Most sea creatures live in much colder environments than the human body, so until now the only thermally stable sources of collagen were pigs, cattle, and other mammals.

"Hemocyanin - as well as being useful for retarding tumour growth in its own right - is also a protein adjuvant. That means it will bind itself to other medicines and make them easier for the body to detect."

Dr Mark Young, the Academic lead for the Protein Technology Hub in the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, and the Cardiff partner on the BioCyanin project, said: “Working with Mikota represents an excellent opportunity for the Protein Hub to develop closer links with industry on a project with impact in biotechnology and marine conservation..."

"Mikota are funding a Professional Training Year placement for Emily Lewis, an Undergraduate student in the School of Biosciences, who is working in the Hub on purification and characterisation of BioCyanin, gaining valuable skills and experience working in both an academic and industrial setting."

Dr Mark Young Reader

Dr Peter Watson and Dr Iwan Palmer are members of the Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN), an Ireland-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. CALIN brings together expertise, access to emerging technologies and routes to market in order to support businesses in the regions. Drs Watson and Palmer aim to help characterise and develop Maricoll, the collagen purified from the limpet, for biomedical applications.

Dr Watson said: "Collagen has always been of interest in the field of biomaterials and medical devices, and this interest continues to grow with several collagen containing clinical products now on the market..."

"Understanding the properties of this marine sourced collagen, and how its properties can be best utilised within the field of medicine is an exciting new area of research within Cardiff University."

Professor Peter Watson Director for Postgraduate Education, Professor, Academic lead of imaging facilities, Postgraduate Research Teaching Co-ordinator

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