Sharks, Squalene, and a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

A bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus). Photo credit: NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

Hi, friends at Southern Fried Science!

You’ve probably seen in the media lately that there’s been a lot of coverage about whether sharks are being killed for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. With an awesome undergraduate co-author, I’ve tried to gather some facts about what is happening (or might happen) and what it means. You can read a preprint of that work here, or read on for a short FAQ in plain English.

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Misunderstood Marine Life # 4 – The healing power of sharks

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Last year, we briefly discussed the myth that sharks don’t get cancer. This myth is easy to disprove, since sharks do, in fact, get cancer. The first cancerous tumor was discovered in a shark over 150 years ago and they have been discovered in more than twenty species. This year, I’m returning to the topic of shark medical myths.

Many parts of sharks have been utilized for their supposed medical benefits. Shark cartilage is sold as an over-the-counter alternative treatment for- you guessed it- cancer. One of the most ridiculous names it’s sold under as “BeneFin”.  According to, the shark cartilage industry is worth over $25 million a year. The basic idea behind this is that since sharks don’t get cancer, if you eat ground up shark cartilage, your cancer will be treated.

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