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This Shark may show us longevity secrets

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For thousands of years, we’ve been searching for a way to extend our lives — without much luck. The average human lifespan in developed countries has more than doubled from 37 to 79 in the past 200 years, but most of that gain is attributable to reduced infant mortality. When it comes to adding years of adult life, we’ve barely moved the needle.

But things may be about to change — in part because of one very chilly fish.

Deep in the icy waters of the Arctic, the Greenland shark(Somniosus microcephalus) has already mastered the art of living for centuries. Scientists believe this odd species may hold secrets to prolonging our own lives.

Last year, scientists reported in the journal Science that S. microcephalus can live for about 400 years, and possibly much longer. The extreme life span of this species — now believed to be the world’s longest-lived vertebrate — was discovered via radiocarbon dating of proteins in the sharks’ eyes.

Since that research was published, scientists in Denmark, England, and elsewhere have been trying to figure out why these fish live so long — and what to make of the fact that they seem to avoid cancer, heart disease, and other ailments that go along with aging in humans.

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