25 October, 1996
The helicopters have been grounded for the day because of a storm. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for this storm to end but a second one is predicted to move in behind it. There is a possibility that there may be a break between the storms and a flight will be able to get out. I'm now scheduled to be at the helicopter pad tomorrow at 7:30 AM.
Bill and Chuck will make a dive this afternoon at Arrival Heights, only a few miles away by sprite. We need a second dive tender and Joshua, who works in the supply room, volunteered. Josh is a premedical student who just graduated from Cornell. He'll is taking a year off from his studies in order to experience a winter in Antarctica.
The dive was routine and I spent the evening working in the lab. It's been 26 days since we've left for Antarctica and we have yet to find an extract that appears to be microbially active. The positive news is eleven species of sponge that have never been analyzed for useful natural products have been collected.
In trying to find natural products that may have a pharmacological value, the divers first collect sponges that the PI's feel might be chemically defended. Metabolites are then extracted by soaking the freeze-dried sponges in organic solvents. The solvents are evaporated leaving the extracted products. A small quantity of the extracted sample is placed on a medium which has been inoculated with a known bacteria or fungus. If the bacterium fails to grow near the sample, the real detective work begins. The extracts contain hundreds of different compounds; the one that is responsible for the microbial activity must be isolated and identified. This could turn into a project that requires several years of work. Seeing this process has given me an understanding of why it costs so much to get a prescription filled at the pharmacy.
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