Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) scientist Michael Zasloff, MD, PhD, who has previously discovered antimicrobial compounds in the skin of frogs and sharks, has turned his attention to the wound healing abilities of dolphins. A dolphin’s ability to heal quickly from a shark bite with apparent indifference to pain, resistance to infection, hemorrhage protection, and near-restoration of normal body contour might provide insights for the care of human injuries, says Zasloff.
For a letter published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Zasloff, an adjunct professor at GUMC and former dean of research, interviewed dolphin handlers and marine biologists, and reviewed the limited literature available about dolphin healing to offer new observations about what he calls the "remarkable" and "mysterious" ability of dolphins to heal.
"Much about the dolphin’s healing process remains unreported and poorly documented," says Zasloff. "How does the dolphin not bleed to death after a shark bite? What prevents infection of a significant injury? And how can a deep, gaping wound heal in such a way that the animal’s body contour is restored? Comparable injuries in humans would be fatal."
He proposes the same diving mechanism (diving reflex) that diverts blood from the periphery of the body during a dolphin’s deep plunge down in water depths also could be triggered after an injury. Less blood at the body’s surface means less blood loss.
Despite gaping wounds and deep flesh tears, those who observe dolphins following shark bites have not noted significant rates of infection. Zasloff says it’s likely that the animal’s blubber holds key answers.
Blubber and its composition have been studied extensively for many years because it accumulates many toxic pollutants of human origin, such as heavy metals from its food sources, which allows scientists to monitor environmental pollution, Zasloff says. It is therefore well documented that blubber also contains natural organohalogens which are known to have antimicrobial properties and antibiotic activity.
[Source: Medical News Today]