Can world's biggest shark help humans?

Whale sharks have caught the attention of medical researchers who are now studying the genome of the world’s largest fish.

Alistair Dove, director of research and conservation at the Georgia Aquarium, the only facility in North America to house live whale sharks, collaborated with Tim Read, a professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and a faculty member in the MMG and PBEE programs, to sequence the whale shark genome.

The researchers hope their ongoing analysis of whale shark genetics will lead to a better understanding of the threatened species and, perhaps, humans as well.

According to Dove, "if we want to understand where our own immune systems come from and how we come to have this ability to fight off the flu or other diseases, looking in the DNA of sharks is a great place.”

Read added that the research could also lead to a better understanding of autoimmune diseases in humans (such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus).

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