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The Great White Shark’s Decoded Genome Shows Promise In Wound And Cancer Protection

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The entire genome of the great white shark is now decoded in a major scientific achievement that has the potential to provide cancer protection.

Scientists from Nova Southeastern University's (NSU) Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center, Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine teamed up to complete the white shark genome sequence.

The great white shark genome is then compared to other species such as the giant whale shark and humans.

Incredible DNA Makeup

The great white shark has gathered the attention not only of scientists but also the media and public for its massive size and predator skills.

Genetic sequencing showed that the shark's genome is one and a half times larger than humans. Scientists also found that its DNA undergoes excess genetic changes that might be responsible for its large body size and longer lifespan.

An adult great white shark can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh approximately 7,000 pounds. It is capable of diving up to 4,000 feet below the ocean surface, but their population is decreasing making them a valuable conservation concern.

"Not only were there a surprisingly high number of genome stability genes that contained these adaptive changes," said Dr. Mahmood Shivji, director of NSU's Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center and GHRI.

Anti-Cancer Abilities

The white shark genome also contained a high number of transposons, which is 30 percent higher than other vertebrates. The "jumping genes" called LINEs are responsible for the creation of double-stranded DNA breaks that may cause genome instability.

Co-author Michael Stanhope said that the number of LINEs in the white shark genome is also found in the huge-bodied and long-lived whale shark. Statistically speaking, large body sizes can equate to higher risk of cancer in a certain species, but it turns out that not all organisms follow the same rule.

White sharks are known for their ability to heal large wounds faster. Researchers said these discoveries could just be the "tip of the iceberg" in understanding how the white shark genome could translate to human medical field.

"There's still tons 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," Shivji said.

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