Shark species including dogfish have a primitive but very effective natural immunity to many pathogens in part due to a powerful antibiotic compound known as squalamine that is produced in the shark’s liver.
Squalamine has been shown to perform a powerful anti-angiogenesis function that means it inhibits the growth of blood vessels. Synthetic squalamine has been shown to inhibit the growth of blood vessels in cancerous tissues and inhibit the infection of human cells with the dengue virus, hepatitis B and hepatitis D.
However much work is still needed to test this new drug candidate.
Lead researcher Prof. Michael Zasloff has said:
"Squalamine appears to protect against viruses that attack the liver and blood tissues, and other similar compounds that we know exist in the shark likely protect against respiratory viral infections, and so on.
"We may be able to harness the shark’s novel immune system to turn all of these antiviral compounds into agents that protect humans against a wide variety of viruses. That would be revolutionary.”
The most abundant source of squalamine has traditionally been the liver of shark species, however, squalamine was synthesized artificially in 1995 meaning that the majority of the chemical is now produced in laboratories.
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Squalamine (shown above) is an important component of the immune system of many shark species. Researchers now wonder if squalamine could be used as an antiviral to protect humans from a wide range of viruses.