Great white sharks may hold the answers to beating cancer - scientists reveal

Great white sharks may prove unlikely saviours of human lives thanks to their huge and extraordinary genome, scientists have discovered.

The first "map" of the creature's DNA has uncovered a plethora of mutations that protect against cancer and other age-related diseases, as well as enhanced wound healing.

Experts believe understanding more about the way the great white has evolved to keep its genome stable and resist disease could lead to new life-preserving human treatments.

Study co-leader Dr Mahmood Shivji, director of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, US, said: "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.

"There's still tons to be learned from these evolutionary marvels, including information that will potentially be useful to fight cancerand age-related diseases, and improve wound healing treatments in humans, as we uncover how these animals do it."

Cracking the great white genetic code also revealed the large size of the apex predator's genome.

It contains an estimated 4.63 billion "base pairs", the chemical units of DNA, making it one-and-a-half times bigger than its human counterpart.

Buried within the great white's DNA are around 24,500 protein-encoding genes, compared with 19,000 to 20,000 in the average human.

Great white sharks, which measure up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as three tonnes, are ancient giants that have been on Earth for at least 16 million years.

Over time they have evolved numerous molecular changes in genes linked to DNA repair and damage tolerance, the scientists found.

Together these adaptations have acted to keep the shark's genome stable.

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Divers swam with a "big, beautiful gentle giant" whose size and markings were said to resemble those of 20-foot great white shark Deep Blue.
A shark cage constructed largely of LP Legacy premium sub-floor panels protects the diver during this extreme product testing expedition. (Photo: Business Wire) Multimedia Gallery URL

A group of divers had a close encounter with a great white shark off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, on Tuesday, January 15, with local diver and conservationist, Ocean Ramsey, able to touch the shark as it passed.

Great white sharks are rare in Hawaii’s waters, according to Ramsey and her team.

The hulking shark dwarfed Ramsey as it glided by, attracted to the area by a nearby sperm whale carcass, according to reports.

The team released this video in the hopes it would generate a positive conservationist message. “I’ve dedicated myself to speaking up for [sharks] here in Hawaii and around the world,” Ramsey wrote, saying her team hoped the video would “spark a movement for more laws to protect sharks here in Hawaii and around the world.” Credit: ©OneOceanDiving via Storyful

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The Great White Shark, known as the Apex predator, is the most feared animal in the world. With its prehistoric look and large jaws, this shark is not the monster eating machine of the ocean. Massive in size and powerful speed to attack its prey makes this shark so deadly when it hones in on its prey.
Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) breaching in an attack. Hunting of a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). South Africa
A 4.5 metre Great White Shark launches from the water to eat a piece of tuna off the coast of Port Lincoln in South Australia. Please see more of my shark photos.
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Neptune Island, South Australia, Australia. The great white (Carcharodon carcharias) is trying to catch the bait as it is being reeled back into a boat.
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In contrast, humans suffer high rates of genome instability caused by accumulated DNA damage, which accounts for their vulnerability to age-related diseases such as cancer.

"Not only were there a surprisingly high number of genome stability genes that contained these adaptive changes, but there was also an enrichment of several of these genes, highlighting the importance of this genetic fine-tuning in the white shark," said Dr Shivji.

At the same time the great white genome contained high numbers of so-called "jumping genes", or transposons – short DNA sequences that leap from one location in the genome to another and help speed up evolution.

Other great white gene mutations were found to be linked to processes involved wound healing, including blood clotting.

Sharks are known for their impressive ability to recover from even serious injuries.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This article first appeared on Yahoo

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