Scientists Explore a “Dogfish Cure”
by Ali Khan, age 15
A shark known as the dogfish can supply a cure for various viral diseases.
The four-foot long bottom feeder is commonly known as the “trash fish.” Many high school biology students know the dogfish from lab dissections. But scientists at Georgetown University have discovered a new use for the dogfish’s tissues. A compound in shark’s tissue called squalamine can eliminate certain viral illnesses, such as hepatitis, and a tropical disease called dengue fever.
Researcher Michael Zasloff said squalamine could lead to “a whole new approach to the treatment of viral disease.”
Squalamine changes the electrical charge in cells. As a positively charged compound, squalamine attaches to negatively charged inner-cell membranes. This creates blockage and forces out other positively charged proteins that are necessary for virus reproduction.
Zasloff also said squalamine “looked like no other compound that had been described in any animal or plant before.”
In 1993, when the substance was first discovered it was also proved to be effective against some cancers and eye disorders. Although squalamine has shown toxicity in some cell types other than the blood vessels, capillaries, and liver, human clinical trials are scheduled until next year.
Scientists hope this shabby shark can rise above its low-life stereotype and provide cures for thousands of people.
[Source: Time Magazine]