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Newly Discovered Fat Molecule: An Undersea Killer With An Upside

A chemical culprit responsible for the rapid, mysterious death of phytoplankton in the North Atlantic Ocean has been found by collaborating scientists at Rutgers University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). This same chemical may hold unexpected promise in cancer research.

The team discovered a previously unknown lipid, or fatty compound, in a virus that has been attacking and killing Emiliania huxleyi, a phytoplankton that plays a major role in the global carbon cycle.

"Emiliania huxleyi is the rock star of phytoplankton," explains Kay Bidle, Rutgers assistant professor of marine science in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. "It blooms all over the oceans, and we can easily see it by satellite. We know that these blooms are frequently infected with viruses, and this virus is specific to this phytoplankton."
 
 

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