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Shark skin investigated for wound healing properties

Photo by: PIRO4D via pixabay

A recent study indicates that novel glycans in shark skin may promote better healing than other fish skin already being studied for use in wound care.

While skin from fish such as tilapia has been used clinically as a wound covering for wounds in veterinary medicine and is under investigation for use in humans, shark skin appears to provide additional benefits, according to the results of a Swedish study. Like mammalian skin, fish skin has three epidermal layers.

Jakob Wikström, associate professor of dermatology and principal investigator at the Karolinska Institute, and Etty Bachar-Wikström, senior researcher and principal investigator, studied the skin mucus of two species of sharks and little skates, a close shark relative. Both are cartilaginous, unlike 99% of fish that are classified as bony species, but the composition and glycan profiles of shark skin mucus were relatively unexplored, they reported in the International Journal of Molecular Science.

Unlike most fish species that have relatively smooth skin protected by a thick, slimy layer of mucus, sharks have rough skin and it had not been determined if shark skin had any kind of protective mucus layer.

The researchers did identify a thin mucus layer on shark skin that is chemically different from bony fish. The shark mucus is less acidic, and is more chemically similar to some mammalian mucus—including some human mucus—than to bony-fish mucus, they reported in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Glycan profiling using liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry showed mostly O-glycans in the mucus of the two sharks and the little skate. Elasmobranch glycans differ significantly from bony fish, especially in being more sulfated, and some bear a resemblance to human glycans, such as gastric mucin O-glycans and H blood group-type glycans.

It's more evidence that “the molecular biology of sharks is unique,” Wikström told the Post, and could lead to novel wound care applications.


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