British oceanographers exploring life in volcanic vents under the Atlantic have found metal-eating bacteria which digest toxins, and creatures with the ability to make repairs to their own DNA, discoveries which could lead to new ways of cleaning polluted landscapes, treatments for healing wounds and even tools in the battle against cancer.

David Dixon of the Southampton oceanography centre and Plymouth marine laboratory, is one of the scientists in the £13m project to study the vast chain of mountains that runs the length of the Atlantic.

In this poisonous and violent world all the animals have found strange ways of staying alive, ways that science could soon be exploiting, according to Dr Dixon.

"One can imagine perhaps a cancer treatment that could harness the DNA repair enzymes, as a way of repairing some of the damage which people incur during chemotherapy or radiotherapy," he said.

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