Coral reefs are often referred to as the medicine chests of the sea. A number of creatures found on reefs produce chemical compounds that have been isolated for human applications—and many more are yet to be discovered. Scientists have developed treatments for cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, leukemia, lymphoma, and skin cancer, all from chemicals in reef plants and animals. Other compounds reduce inflammation, kill viruses, and relax muscles.

The beautiful and fragile creatures of our coral reefs have the potential to make even greater contributions to our lives by providing new cures for life-threatening diseases. More than half of all new cancer drug research focuses on marine organisms. In addition, coral’s unique skeletal structure has been used to make our most advanced forms of bone-grafting materials.

Neon gobies (Elacatinus lobeli) on brain coral. Photo by CORAL staff