Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sharks may hold the Cure for Cancer

Article Written By: Nikhita Nandy


Great White Sharks May Hold the Cure to Cancer

From the cinematic Jaws series and the multiple incidents that have taken place in the beaches of Florida, sharks have been known as one of the world’s most dangerous marine creatures. However, though these creatures can be of great harm to humans when provoked in water, they can indirectly be helpful to aid human health.

From immense research collected by scientists from Southeastern California University, sharks actually hold the medicinal properties that may cure cancer and aid aging illnesses in humans. Now, what do sharks have, that humans don’t have in order to cure diseases? 

According to BBC news, the director of the Save Our Seas Shark Research Centre and the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Mahmood Shivji, a great white shark has the remarkable ability to repair its own DNA. Its genome is 1.5 times bigger than an average human’s genome, meaning that it has about 4.63 billion base pairs. Notably, according to an article in The Chronicle Herald, 60% of a shark’s genome has repeat gene sequences and about 30% of them are composed of a special type of DNA called “LINEs” which are commonly known as “jumping genes”. These are special genes that can replicate themselves and produce copies that are known to “jump” around and insert themselves into variable genomes. 

Many of the special genes that were observed in a shark’s genome, were thought to maintain genome stability repairing DNA and containing key tumor suppressing genes. According to Dr. Shivji, this phenomena was the result of evolutionary change sharks experienced. Dr. Shivji had said that these genes are “enriched” rather than ordinary due to special sequence changes that could help repair wounds. Research shows that since sharks have no bones,  cells of their immune system are readily available in the bloodstream and as such, antibodies are better able to infiltrate tissue and therefore reach the disease faster.

Furthermore, researchers of the Guy Harvey Institute bring to attention that sharks are endangered species and so, scientific research should be kept ethical while exploring a shark's body; sharks should not be killed for the sole purpose of creating medicine that could cure diseases. 

Moreover, the public have brought up questions on whether shark cartilage can be incorporated into health supplements. However, scientists have said that further research is still yet to be done for this to happen. According to an article written by Charles Bryant on, a study from 2005 was done on mice and humans where oral shark cartilage was incorporated in a supplement which caused the side effects of nausea and diarrhea. It is also important to consider that shark cartilage contains mercury. 

Therefore, research is still in progress in regards to sharks and their medicinal properties, so it is important to consider that solutions are in exploration and there are further more discoveries yet to be made with alternative species. 


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