Elephant shark genome analyzed, features primitive immune system

Researchers who partnered up at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics have published a paper in the scientific journal Nature where they reveal that the immune system of the elephant shark is surprisingly primitive.

This caught the researchers off-guard that elephant sharks feature a relatively simplistic immune system, despite living a long time and rarely getting illnesses, reports Biology News. The researchers examined the genome and discovered that unlike in humans, sharks do not have the T-helper lymphocytes. These lymphocytes are often viewed as integral in humans to helping the immune system to fight off various infections and other problems.

Co-author of the paper, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics Director Thomas Boehm, said, "The structure of the immune system of the elephant shark is very different from mammals." He continued, "It is obvious that sharks can efficiently deal with all kinds of infections without this particular cell type. This indicates that nature can come up with different solutions to the same problem."

In the paper, it is noted that the elephant shark genome "is evolving significantly slower than other vertebrates, including the coelacanth," according to AFP.

The elephant shark is not actually a true shark, but rather a chimaera that evolved differently, but still features cartilage. The elephant shark, or Callorhinchus milii, can grow up to about 120 cm long. Researchers have been looking into the C. milii's genome in hopes of looking for a way to fight osteoporosis in humans.

image: Wikimedia Commons

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