Tagging sharks in hopes of helping humans

- Patience is often the key to research. But when it comes to sharks, it also takes some luck to find the right ones -- and the skill to reel them in.

"Science like this takes a long time to put together. It doesn't happen overnight," said Dr. Bob Hueter, Mote Marine Laboratory senior scientist.  "It is like a pit crew working on the race car. We basically all have in our minds our jobs, we want to make everything gets done and check off all the protocols."

Dr. Hueter and other researchers boarded the Ocearch research ship last month.  They caught seven sharks of three different types and were able to put tracking devices on four Tiger sharks.  Scientists also took blood and bacterial samples from each.

Mote scientists are hopeful the bacterial samples they collected will one day shed some light on how to treat and cure human disease.

"We have more  than 1,000 strains of bacteria that a scientist took from these sharks that has sampled and now begins the process of figuring out how many are alike and which of those are the so-called good bacteria which can help with the development of new antibiotics," explained Dr. Hueter.

Since sharks rarely get sick and are faster at healing wounds, scientists want to hone in on why and how it can help humans.

"What it does is set up a baseline of information on the number of bacteria that could be a potential for drug discovery. It also gives us an awful lot of information on shark immunity," said Dr. Kim Ritchie.

Ultimately, researchers hope to discover that these sharks carry the cures to many diseases that make humans sick, but getting to that point will take some time.

"What comes next takes a lot of money, a lot of research and a lot of years, but it is a great first step," added Dr. Ritchie.

To track the sharks and others, visit: www.ocearch.org

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