The great white shark can help us in the fight against cancer. The great white shark has a very strong DNA. White sharks grow old, about seventy years, but also very big. Yet they rarely get cancer. For this reasons scientists are researching the DNA of the world's largest predatory for years now and have finally mapped the shark's genome.
Shark can heal DNA itself
Normally, the risk of certain diseases such as cancer increases as a person or animal gets bigger or older. This is not the case with the white shark. Researchers of the Save Our Seas Shark Centre USA (SOS SC), a study centre affiliated with the American Nova Southeastern University in Florida, have now discovered what makes the DNA of the white shark so special. The shark's DNA is one and a half times larger than that of humans, but the great white shark can also heal its DNA itself, something we are not capable of.
Jumping genes positive
People suffer from 'jumping genes'. Pieces of DNA that jump from one chromosome to another and cause damage if they end up in the wrong place. This is called genome instability. In sharks, jumping genes have a positive effect and this may be the driving force behind their DNA repair mechanisms. "Genome instability is an important cause of serious human diseases," says researcher Mahmood Shivji. "Nature has apparently already developed some clever strategies to stabilise the genome in these large sharks. So there is still a lot to learn from the sharks. This information can be useful in the fight against cancer and age-related diseases.