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Posted on: Monday, August 11, 2003
Maui researchers studying life near undersea volcano
By Mary Vorsino
Scientists using supercomputers to study the bacteria that thrive in Hawai'i's inhospitable undersea world say
mapping the genetic patterns of the micro-organisms could lead to a number of medical breakthroughs,
including possibly creation of a blood substitute.
Researchers at the Maui High Performance Computing Center have received a grant from IBM Corp. to study
the organisms found in the acidic, heated waters surrounding the submerged Loihi active volcano, a formation
in 3,000-foot waters about 20 miles off the Big Island.
The research builds on work unveiled two years ago that sequenced the genome of a rare bacteria collected
from the volcano's vent, a deep-sea habitat similar to the primordial pools from which life began 3.5 billion
Maqsudul Alam, a University of Hawai'i scientist working on the project, said the bacteria's DNA includes
proteins -- such as myoglobin and hemoglobin -- that mirror those of humans.
That means the organisms could be studied to model a blood substitute for use in emergency rooms and
enhancement of drugs that treat globin protein-related illnesses, Alam said.
Myoglobin is used in the body to store oxygen, while hemo-globin is used to carry blood to organs. Proteins,