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Shark DNA could hold clues to fighting cancer
“Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases; now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.”

Study suggests great whites have evolved protective abilities

Scientists have decoded the entire genome of the great white shark, which could offer clues to fighting cancer and age-related diseases in humans, as well as improving wound healing treatments.

Comparing the great white’s genome to a human genome, the research team found numerous genetic changes that could explain the evolutionary success of this large-bodied, long-lived species.

The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

Adaptive changes were found in numerous genes that play important roles in genome stability, the genetic defence mechanisms that counteract accumulation of damage to DNA. Scientists identified these changes in genes that are closely linked with DNA repair, damage response and damage tolerance, among others.

The opposite phenomenon, genome instability, which occurs as a result of accumulated DNA damage, is known to predispose humans to numerous cancers and age-related diseases.

Theoretically, the risk of developing cancer should increase with both the number of cells (large bodies) and the organism’s lifespan; there is statistical support for a positive relationship between body size and cancer risk. However, this does not hold up across all species.

Scientists said that contrary to expectations, very large-bodied animals do not get cancer more often than humans, suggesting they have developed superior protective abilities.

Sharks are also known for their rapid wound healing and scientists found evolutionary adaptations in genes linked to wound healing pathways, including a key blood clotting gene.

Co-leader of the study, Mahmood Shivji, who is director of the Nova Southeastern University’s Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre, said: “Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases; now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.”

“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.”

Decoding the great white’s genome will also help with conservation of this and related shark species, many of which are suffering declining populations due to overfishing.

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Big Butterfly Count returns

News Story 1
 The world's biggest survey of butterflies is back for 2020!

Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count launches on Friday, 17 July and will run until Sunday 9 August. Members of the public can get involved by downloading the Big Butterfly Count App or recording results on a downloadable sheet available from

'It's a fantastic activity for people from three to 103 years and we'd encourage everyone to take 15 minutes in an appropriate outdoor space during sunny conditions to simply appreciate the nature around them and do their bit to help us understand butterfly populations,' said a Butterfly Conservation spokesperson. 

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News Shorts
WellVet reopens ticket sales to online conference platform

Following the success of its online conference, the organisers behind WellVet Weekend have re-opened ticket sales to allow new delegates to access session recordings and its online networking platform.

The day-long conference saw more than 360 veterinary professionals mix activity sessions with personal development CPD, all hosted within a virtual conference platform. Now, with more than 500 minutes of CPD available, the resource is being re-opened to allow full access to the session recordings until May 2021.

Sessions are aimed at providing delegates with a range of proactive wellbeing tools to explore to find ways of improving their mental and physical health. Tickets are limited in number and on sale at until 30th August 2020.