Whale Sharks Help With Medical Research

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The next big medical breakthrough may not come from a hospital, but from the Georgia Aquarium.

The popular tourist attraction is collaborating with researchers at Emory University to sequence the genome of the world’s biggest fish.

Whale sharks have caught the attention of researchers who are hoping to unlock the secrets of the ocean’s largest fish.

“Sharks are the first group of vertebrates to have antibodies in their blood to specific diseases. So, 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,” said Alistair Dove, Ph.D., Georgia Aquarium.

Despite their immense size, whale sharks pose no threat to humans, allowing researchers to get up close and personal.

Studying the whale shark genome could help protect this threatened species, according to Emory professor Tim Read, PhD.

“People love them because they’re beautiful animals. They’re extremely mysterious. We know so little about the ecology of whale sharks in the wild,” said Read.

At the only aquarium in North America to house whale sharks, researchers and visitors have the unique opportunity to swim among these giant fish.

Perhaps both species can actually help each other pending the outcome of the genome project.

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