Corals in cancer cure
The vividly fluorescent cluster was found in waters off Lord Howe Island, 600 kilometres (400 miles) east of the Australian mainland, with some displaying rich reds that were difficult to find and in high demand for studies of cancer cells, researcher Anya Salih said.
"The underwater buttresses and caverns are densely inhabited by hundreds of corals, all deeply pigmented by the most intense green, blue and many with red fluorescence," she said.
Salih said she had never seen such an abundance of highly red fluorescent corals, nor such an extraordinarily vibrant site.
"We are using these pigments to light up the workings of living cells and to study what goes wrong in cancer cells," said Salih, from the University of Western Sydney.
The gene producing the particular pigment -- red, green, blue or yellow -- would be attached to a molecule in both healthy and cancerous cells, and would enable scientists to track cell growth and change using a special fluorescent-
sensitive laser microscope.