Potential Human Medical Benefits from Shark Skin

Tiger Shark - Photo by Andi Voeltz at Flickr

Potential Human Medical Benefits from Shark Skin

Sharks are different from other fish in several ways, one of which is that they seem to have an extraordinary capacity for wound healing based on accounts of sharks healing from wounds they got in the wild.

Even if the capacity to heal hasn’t been shown in controlled laboratory settings yet, several of the chemical components discovered in shark skin could have important applications in medicine.

Two dermatological researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden studied several cartilaginous fish species at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as well as a tiny shark known as the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), to explore this potential.

Their goal was to comprehend the peculiar biochemistry of these animals’ epidermis. Prior studies conducted on sharks in different laboratories have produced a novel antibiotic and identified biochemical pathways that are important for studying cystic fibrosis.

At the MBL, senior researcher Etty Bachar-Wikstrom and associate professor of dermatology and principle investigator Jakob Wikstrom examined the skin mucus of two shark species and their near cousins, the small skates.

Sharks have rough skin that feels like sandpaper, in contrast to the great majority of fish species, which have comparatively smooth skin shielded by a thick, slimy coating of mucus. Whether this skin has a protective mucus layer at all was not apparent.

As stated by Wikstrom:

“Much more is known about fish biology than shark biology, for obvious reasons. Fish are easier to handle, and there’s a bigger commercial interest in them.”

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