Dr. Hadwiger's laboratory has concentrated on developing commercial uses for the crabshell by-product, chitosan, based on basic research of the biological, biochemical and molecular actions of chitosan oligomers. Their analysis of chitosan's natural role in disease resistance in plants has previously led to commercial uses in agriculture for large, low-cost quantities of chitosan. More recently, their emphasis has turned toward commercial developments that could increase the value of more refined chitosan products such as the lower molecular weight oligomers (e.g. the chitosan heptamer). The laboratory found that this chitosan heptamer can enter eukaryotic cells and initiate temporary DNA fragmentation that results in the induction both of defense genes in plants and the p53 gene associated with the onset of apoptosis in animal cells. Since apoptosis (programmed cell death) has been shown to be a requirement for eliminated DNA-damaged or pre-cancerous cells in animals, Dr. Hadwiger proposes that by inducing apoptosis in cancerous cells with chitosan this product has a potential as a natural anti-cancer drug.
Updated January 30, 1997
Back to Marine Products Index