As a predator, the Great White Shark is iconic, due in no small measure to the 1975 film Jaws. A major study has now decoded its entire genome and found that it could hold new clues to the fight against cancer.
The study revealed the genome’s huge size (1½ times the size of the human genome) and also a plethora of genetic changes that could be behind the long, evolutionary success of large sharks.
The researchers found indications of molecular adaptation in numerous genes with important roles in maintaining genome stability. This is a mechanism that counteracts the accumulation of damage to the DNA of a species, thereby preserving the integrity of the genome.
The opposite phenomenon, genome instability, which results from accumulated DNA damage, is known to predispose humans to numerous cancers and age-related diseases.
The discovery was significant because theoretically, the risk of developing cancer should increase with both the number of cells (large bodies) and an organism’s lifespan.
However, contrary to expectations, very large animals do not get cancer more often than humans, suggesting that they have evolved superior cancer-protective abilities.
“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,” Nova Southeastern University quoted researcher Mahmood Shivji as saying. The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.
Source: Nova Southeastern University