Scientists mapping great white shark DNA have stumbled across something unexpected and exciting; a mutation that can be the key for fighting cancers and age-related diseases.
Scientists working at Nova Southeastern University in Florida in the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center have, for the first time, mapped out the DNA of these magnificent apex predators.
Along the way, the discovered some abnormalities in their genetic code that appears to help sharks fight illnesses, like cancers. Unstable genes in humans can cause illness, but sharks have a hard-wearing genetic structure that has contributed to their evolutionary success.
Co-leader of the study, Dr. Mahmood Shivji, states, "Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases. Now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.”
While scientists admit that there is still much to be learned about these marvels of evolution, such as clarification on exactly how the research can be used to fight illness and cancer and help with the treatments of wounds in humans.
In addition, researchers say, the information they have uncovered can help conserve threatened species of sharks.
Overfishing has contributed widely to the decline of several species of shark, and the hope is that decoding the genome of the white shark will help scientists find a way to reverse the endangered members of the shark family.
Genetic conservationist from NSU, Steven O’Brien, is excited for the possibilities, explaining, “The genome data will be a great asset for understanding white shark population dynamics to better conserve this amazing species that has captured the imagination of so many.”