Acne Puts Sharks on Spot

By Elliott, Keith | The Independent (London, England), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Acne Puts Sharks on Spot

Elliott, Keith, The Independent (London, England)

ONE of the great mysteries of fishing is why the trout has spots. This week I discovered the answer.

Sounds like one of Kipling's Just So stories, doesn't it? How the Trout Got his Spots. The answer is simple. It's because when he was young he didn't eat enough shark liver.

Our story starts in Japan. A scientist studying fishermen noticed that handling sharks was having a beneficial effect on their skin. It wasn't quite giving them the epidermis of a baby (can you imagine how that would have gone down in the waterfront bars?) but the shark men were certainly far less prone to dermatitis and other skin diseases.

Further tests isolated the chemical involved, which came from shark liver. Australian scientists refined the chemical and discovered that by making its home in the sebaceous glands it stopped production of the gunge that results in spots and acne.

A synthetic version, lsolutrol, forms the basis of a lotion called Ketsugo, which recently went on sale in the UK to help acne sufferers. By all accounts it's pretty effective, and is said to be the first non-prescription product to treat the cause of acne rather than the symptoms.

Ketsugo would seem to be the perfect answer for every teenager who has suffered from volcanic skin. But there are a couple of drawbacks. First, you have to keep using it or the spots return. And secondly, it's not doing a lot for sharks.

It's true that the product is no longer made from shark liver oil. But the discovery of such benefits has meant that sharks have become flavour of the month in the world's research laboratories. Well, I guess you can understand it. You never see sharks suffering from tail rot, cataracts or a runny nose. Ergo, they know something we don't. Let's cut 'em up and find out what.

Sharks are under attack from many other areas, most notoriously the Chinese appetite for their fins.

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