This Might Be Great White Sharks' Biggest Advantage

Decoded genome sheds light on how they heal their own wounds, stay healthy
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2019 8:54 AM CST
Updated Feb 23, 2019 7:30 AM CST
This Might Be the Secret to Great Whites' Success
In this Jan. 15, 2019, photo provided by Juan Oliphant, Ocean Ramsey, a shark researcher and advocate, swims with a large great white shark off the shore of Oahu.   (Juan Oliphant via AP)

Scientists for the first time have decoded the genome of the great white shark, and the results show that humans have much to learn from the long-lived creatures. The sharks' genes seem especially suited to healing their own wounds and warding off illness, reports Wired. "These include DNA sequences that code for supercharged blood-clotting agents and scaffolding proteins responsible for laying down the foundational units of new flesh." In short, the DNA can repair itself, per the BBC. Plus, the sharks have 41 pairs of chromosomes compared to humans' 23, and this much larger genome means the sharks have things coded into their very beings that humans do not.

The genome helps explains how sharks have survived for hundreds of millions of years in dangerous waters, while living relatively disease-free despite weighing up to 7,000 pounds, per Science Daily. The sharks had a "surprisingly high number of genome stability genes," and they seem capable of "genetic fine-tuning" during their lives, says study co-leader Mahmood Shivji. Humans, not so much. "Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases," says Shivji, who adds that studying the shark genome could shed light on diseases from Alzheimer's to cancer, as well as wound-healing. (This woman swam with one of the biggest great whites ever recorded.)

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