A new genomics study of shark DNA, including from great white and great hammerhead sharks, reveals unique modifications in their immunity genes that may underlie the rapid wound healing and possibly higher resistance to cancers in these ocean predators. This research brings us a few steps closer to understanding, from a genetic sense, why sharks exhibit some characteristics that are highly desirable by humans.
Sharks and rays are well known to be highly efficient wound healers, and suspected to show a greater resistance to cancers, though this needs further study. These properties are likely tied to their immune systems, which have been fine-tuned over 400 million years of evolution.
A study by the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Save Our Seas Shark Research Center and Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine just published in the journal BMC Genomics (lead author, postdoctoral associate Nicholas Marra,) now provides the first evidence that some shark and ray immunity genes have undergone evolutionary changes that may be tied to these novel immune system abilities.
"The immune system of sharks and rays has been battle-tested and evolved over hundreds of millions of years," said Mahmood Shivji. Ph.D., director of NSU's Save Our Seas Shark Research Center and Guy Harvey Research Institute. "Using genomics approaches to understanding their immunity genesis is likely to produce many more exciting discoveries, some of which could potentially translate into human medical benefit. Now we have another important reason to make sure we don't lose these marvelous and ecologically critical animals to overfishing, as is currently occurring in many parts of the world. We've just scratched the surface in terms of learning what these ancient animals can teach us, as well as possibly provide us in terms of direct biomedical benefits."
Read more at: