5 Fin-tastic Ways Sharks Can Help Advance Human Medicine

What is it about sharks that make people frightened and uncomfortable? After all, a person is 2 times more likely to die from an alligator attack, 20 times more likely to die from annual tornadoes, and 1000 times more likely to die while bicycling. So, who’s really our enemy here? It might be the media that instills the fear in us about sharks. However, researchers have found that applying shark science to human health may lead to several discoveries in medicine. Sink your teeth into these 5 ways sharks could benefit humans in the future.

1.) Fibrosis

Scientists have found that sharks don’t get sick nearly as frequently as other species. Shark tissue has anticoagulant and antibacterial properties that research could use to treat viruses and cystic fibrosis. Australian researchers have already developed a drug that mimics part of the shark’s immune system called AD-114. The antibodies in shark blood inspired AD-114. Current research expects to implement the drug  in human trials as early as 2018.

2.) Wound Healing

According to a 2015 study in the journal Conservation Physiology, the blacktip reef shark could heal a severe wound by as much as 90 percent in 24 days. Because they have a special class of antibodies, sharks can heal quickly and are much more efficient than human antibodies. Because sharks can heal quickly from wounds and resist infections, scientists want to research the possibility of humans adapting the same quick healing properties.

3.) Cancer

Scientists can modify shark antibodies and use them to deliver cancer-fighting drugs directly into tumors. Due to evolutionary changes, some sharks have acquired cancer-resistant abilities. Most notably, these genes found in sharks also have counterparts within humans. Their over-expression is known to be associated with cancer. Although scientists are still conducting research, they are excited to discover how sharks can help combat cancer in humans.

4.) Hospital Infections

The roughness and certain properties of shark skin can help reduce contaminated surfaces in hospitals. In a study conducted by Sharklet Technologies, researchers found that shark-inspired micropatterns on hospital surfaces reduced the transmission of Staphylococus by 97 percent, compared to a common antimicrobial surface. This could help reduce infections acquired from visiting hospitals.

5.) Alzheimer’s Disease

Private research companies have been using shark antibodies to breach the brain-blood barrier in mice. The brain-blood barrier is a layer of cells around the cerebral blood vessels on the brain that make it difficult for toxins to breach. So far, they have successfully tested the technology in mice for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Injecting shark antibodies into humans is still years away from being implemented, but human trials could start in as little as two years.

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