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How Sharks Could One Day Save Your Life (and Build a Bigger, Better Boat)

August 18, 2014, 11:00 AM

Those pesky, pesky sharks.

When they're not busy gobbling up Robert Shaw or forming into B-movie meteorological phenomena, sharks spend their time withholding secrets that could someday advance multiple fields of science and engineering. This is according to Jim Waymer of Florida Today, whose terrific article on the mysteries of shark science is up now at USA Today.

Okay, so maybe our insubstantial understanding of shark physiology isn't due to nefarious intentions but rather because researchers are still prying for answers. For example, did you know sharks only very rarely get cancer? Or that their ability to heal wounds evokes images of X-Men's Wolverine? Waymer spoke to Dr. Robert Hueter, a prolific shark researcher, about what ol' Bruce can teach us about regeneration and medicine:

"'Within hours after a wound is opened up on a shark's body, a coating of cells begins to grow over, faster than anything that mammals do... The immune cells of sharks and rays also create substances that selectively kill human tumor cells in culture.'"

You can see why cancer researchers probably salivate over the prospect of increased research on shark immune systems. But it's not just medical professionals who have a vested interest in shark research. Engineers seeking to build faster, more efficient sea vessels have long wished to unlock the secrets of sharks' advanced maneuverability. Again, Waymer:

"The scales alter waterflow over the shark's skin in a way that's been likened to dimples on a golf ball and that helps generate thrust when the shark moves... Manufacturing materials that can mimic shark skin could yield more hydrodynamic boats, swimsuits and aircraft designs."

Waymer's article dives deep into multiple subjects (including shark mind control!) and is really worth a read. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Read more at USA Today

Photo credit: Stefan Pircher / Shutterstock


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