White sharks could help scientists find a cure for cancer thanks to their huge and extraordinary genome.
The first "map" of the animal's DNA has revealed a number of mutations that protect against the disease and other age-related conditions as well as improved wound healing.
Large white sharks, up to 20 meters long and weighing up to three tons, have been on Earth for at least 16 million years.
Over time, they developed numerous molecular alterations in genes related to DNA repair and injury tolerance, the researchers found.
These adjustments have helped to keep the shark's genome stable.
The co-leader of the study, dr. Mahmood Shivji, director of the Shear Research Center of the Save Our Seas Foundation at Nova Southeastern University, Florida, said: "Not only was there a surprising number of genome stability genes containing these adaptive changes, but also an enrichment of some of these genes which underlines the importance of this genetic fine-tuning in the Great White Shark. "
In contrast, people suffer from high genome instability caused by accumulated DNA damage, which makes them susceptible to age-related diseases such as cancer.
Experts believe that a better understanding of how the great white has developed to keep the genome stable and resist disease can lead to new life-sustaining human treatments.
Dr. Shivji continued, "Instability of the genome is a very important issue in many serious human diseases.
"Now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to ensure the stability of genomes in these long-lived, large-body sharks.
"There is still a lot to learn from these evolutionary wonders, including information that may be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases and improve wound healing in humans as we figure out how these animals do it."
The cracking of the large white genetic code also showed the size of the genome of the apex predator.
It contains an estimated 4.63 billion "base pairs", the chemical units of DNA, which makes it one and a half times larger than the human counterpart.
The DNA of the Great White contains approximately 24,500 genes encoding the protein, compared to 19,000 to 20,000 in the average human.
The large white genome also contained a large number of so-called "jumping genes" or transposons – short DNA sequences that jump from one place in the genome to another and accelerate evolution.
Other major white gene mutations have been found to be associated with processes involved in wound healing, including blood clotting.
Sharks are known for their impressive ability to recover even from serious injuries.
The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.