Scientists mapping the DNA of great white sharks have discovered a “mutation” that could be used to fight cancer and other age-related illnesses, scientists said earlier in the week.
Experts from the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre at Nova Southeastern University in Florida have mapped the DNA of the giant underwater predator for the first time.
While conducting the research, they found peculiarities in the shark’s genetic code that may help protect it against cancer and other illnesses.
In humans, unstable genes give rise to illnesses—but underlying the evolutionary success of sharks as a species is a uniquely hard-wearing genetic structure, according to the experts.
"Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases," says study co-leader Dr Mahmood Shivji in a statement.
"Now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.
"There's still tonnes to be learned from these evolutionary marvels, including information that will potentially be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases, and improve wound-healing treatments in humans, as we uncover how these animals do it.
Authors of the study said that the information could also help with the conservation of threatened shark populations.
"Decoding the white shark genome will also assist with the conservation of this and related sharks, many of which have rapidly declining populations due to overfishing,” said Steven O’Brien, a conservation geneticist at NSU, who co-conceived this study. “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.”