Despite their enormous size and long lives, elephants are surprisingly cancer-resistant, which is why their DNA could hold the answer to avoiding cancers.
A team of scientists from seven different research institutions has employed bioinformatic modeling to examine the molecular connections of the p53 protein, which is known to defend the body against cancers, according to a press release by the University of Oxford.
The researchers revealed how 20 different molecules unique to elephants are triggered for greater sensitivity and responsiveness against carcinogenic circumstances, according to research published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. With further exploration, this could have numerous implications for cancer treatments in humans.
Elephant genes and cancer
Every time a cell divides, new cells replace the old ones with fresh copies of the DNA. While these new cells should be exact replicas of the older cells, mutations can happen, which are swiftly repaired by the cell most of the time.
However, both genetic and environmental factors have an impact on the quantity of mutations and the quality of repairs. Ageing, stress, unhealthy living conditions, and toxic substances can all speed up the pace of mutation. Cancer develops when cells divide uncontrolled and invade neighboring tissues, and the tumors caused by the accumulation of gene mutations grow at risk with age.
However, when it comes to elephants, which are notorious for their massive bodies and human-like life expectancy, they appear to defy this trend.
Tumours caused by the accumulation of gene mutations grow in risk with age, however elephants appear to defy this trend. In fact, less than five percent of elephants are predicted to die from cancer, instead of up to 25 percent in humans. According to scientists, this resistance is attributed to elephants' 20 copies of the p53 gene, as opposed to the single seen in other mammals.