A new hope for humanity: elephants may help scientists fight human cancer, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. reveals.
If you ever thought you have no reason for envying an elephant, you should think twice. It seems that these animals are very lucky not only for their memory, but also for the fact that they barely die because of cancer.
Statistics show that only 4,8% of the elephants’ deaths have something to do with cancer. As for humans, between 11% and 25% of them die because of this disease.
Taking into consideration the fact that elephants have 100 times more cells than we do, that would mean a higher risk of malignant cells, but things seem to be different for them.
Over the years, scientisst tried to find out why big mammals don’t have cancer as often as small ones. Believe it or not, this issue has a name: Peto’s paradox.
Now, the recently published study revealed that elephants have a gene called TP53, which creates a protein that subdues tumors. Sctientists call this gene the protector of the genome. Elephants have 20 copies of the genome, while human have only 1 copy.
Dr. Joshua Schiffman explains how this gene works: “When there is DNA damage, it rushes onto the scene and stops your cells from dividing so the DNA can be repaired.”
In order to make these discoveries, the researchers exposed blood cells taken from humans and elephants to radiation meant to break their DNA. What they expected was that elephant’s cells would restore more rapidly than the human cells. Scientists were surprised to find out that instead, the elephant’s cells were dying quicker. After that, researchers came to the conclusion that TP53 makes the ill cells destroy themselves so that they don’t evolve to dangerous mutations.
This new discovery led scientists to the conclusion that an extra protection offered by TP53 could prevent human cells from growing cancerous.
Image Source: Wikimedia