The Rise of Nostoc
Throughout the ages, natural products have played an integral role in providing diverse bioactive lead compounds and giving us inspiration for new drugs. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, serve as a rich source of novel natural products. Published data indicate that over 4000 strains of cyanobacteria have been evaluated for various biological activities such as anticancer, antimicrobial, enzyme inhibition, etc. Our lab focuses on collecting and culturing cyanobacteria, isolating bioactive compounds from cyanobacteria, identifying bioactive compounds using modern spectroscopic techniques, as well as biologically evaluating compounds from cyanobacteria. This photo, taken during a collection trip to Wisconsin in the summer of 2011, shows the colonies of a cyanobacteria strain: Nostoc. Nostoc colonies have been used to treat gout, fistula and several forms of cancer as early as 1500 BC. Cryptophycin, borophycin and numerous other bioactive compounds have been discovered from Nostoc. Could this Nostoc strain contribute to a new drug? We intend to find out.