Shark Skin’s Healing Secrets May Lead to Medical Breakthroughs •

The unique healing abilities of sharks noted in wild observations have long intrigued the scientific community. Jakob Wikström and Edi Bachar-Wikström, researchers Karolinska Institute in SwedenThe biochemistry of shark skin was investigated to explore its potential for medical applications.

Study focus

„Our aim in this paper was to characterize shark skin at the molecular level, which has not been done in depth,” Bachar-Wikström said.

Research focused on spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and other cartilaginous fish species at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MPL) in Woods Hole.

„For obvious reasons, much more is known about fish biology than shark biology,” Bachar-Wikstrom said. „The fish are easy to handle, and there is huge commercial interest in them.”

Unique skin texture

Sharks are fish, too, but 99 percent of fish are bony species (Osteichthyes), unlike cartilaginous sharks and skates (Condrichthyes), Bachar-Wikström said.

Sharks and other fishes in the class Chondrichthyes have different skin structure and makeup.

This unique structure is in stark contrast to the smooth skin of bony fish, which is covered with a thick layer of mucus, often compared to sandpaper. The researchers said it is unclear whether shark skin has a protective mucus layer.

Shark mucus

The study revealed that sharks actually have a layer of mucus. Shark mucus is less acidic, almost neutral, and some mammalian mucus, including some human mucus, turns out to be chemically more similar than bony fish mucus, Bachar-Wikström explained.

This is more evidence that „the molecular biology of sharks is unique,” Bachar-Wikstrom said. “They are not just another fish that swims by. They have a unique biology and there may be many human biomedical applications that one can derive from it.

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“For example, when it comes to mucin [a primary component of the mucus]One can imagine topical treatments for various injuries that could be developed from it.

Wound treatments

Wikstrom noted that wound-healing products have already been derived from codfish and that something similar could be developed from sharks.

„Besides the human relevance, it’s important to characterize these amazing animals and learn more about them and how they live in their environment…I think this is the first step toward an even deeper molecular understanding.”

Continued research

The group’s ongoing research not only aims to improve human medicine, but also to gain a deeper understanding of these remarkable animals and their survival mechanisms. Next steps include a series of papers characterizing the biochemical properties of species such as the chain catshark and little skate.

These studies will include detailed analysis of different skin cell types and the healing capabilities of shark skin at the single-cell level.

Research implications

„Animals that are evolutionarily distant (from us) can still provide very important information that is relevant to humans,” Wikstrom said.

Although a great deal of research has been done on wound healing in zebrafish, no one has actually done it in sharks, he said. „So it’s exciting because we don’t know what we’re going to find. This is exploratory research.

The researchers said the MBL provided special resources that made this work possible, including a large collection of specimens of related species and highly experienced experts working with them. „It’s really a unique skill for them,” Wikstrom said. „There aren’t many places in America or the world that have them.”

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Published in thesis International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

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