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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 09:23 GMT
Scientists in shark health study
Sharks have highly developed immune systems
Scottish scientists are about to embark on a study of why sharks rarely get sick.

Researchers at Aberdeen University have secured enterprise cash to carry out the work which they hope will lead to new cures for human illnesses.

Scientists already know about the species long history, they were around before dinosaurs.

And they believe their longevity could be down to a very efficient immune system.

The research, being funded by Scottish Enterprise cash, will centre on looking at the shark's antibodies.

The Proof of Concept Fund is providing the money

The Aberdeen researchers are interested in the size of the antibodies which are less than half the size of human ones.

They think that small antibodies can more easily penetrate tissue and neutralise things like cancer or infections.

The scientists plan to create a genetic library of shark antibodies. And appropriately the first species to be examined will be the nurse shark.

The shark project is one of 38 to share in 6m being made available by Scottish Enterprise.

Other winners include projects to develop more effective treatment of disease using optoelectronics, advanced technology for interactive toys and board games, and new ways of detecting tooth decay.

Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister Wendy Alexander said: "Each of the 38 early-stage projects receiving awards today will aspire to become a successful commercial product.

"This volume of superb quality ideas will surely result in significant returns for Scotland."

Robert Crawford, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise added: "Funding this type of early stage research is risky and the full economic potential will take anything up to 20 years to generate."

Sandy Bremner reports
"Scientists want to harness the shark's antibodies"
See also:

10 Sep 01 | Scotland
More cash for Scottish innovators
10 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Scientists tag a great white
22 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Sharks endangered by fin trade
25 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
UK seeks to save basking shark
09 Feb 01 | Americas
Shark attacks at record high
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