‘Zombie gene’ could explain why elephants rarely get cancer

elephants lead jpg x q crop smart
Image credit: Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

[B]igger animals, which have more cells, should have greater occurrences of cancer. By that reasoning, elephants, with hundreds of times more cells than smaller mammals, should suffer from the disease at much higher rates. But that isn’t the case. Now, a study in the journal Cell Reports offers new clues as to why—and the key may be a recently revived “zombie” gene.

[Author Vincent] Lynch and his colleagues began searching for other genetic differences in elephants compared to small-bodied mammals, specifically, for genes with extra copies. One in particular stood out: Leukemia Inhibitory Factor or LIF.

Lynch thinks that LIF6 may also serve another function: slaying damaged cells. Most mammals—from the tiny pika to the massive minke whale—have just one copy of LIF. But elephants and their close relatives, including the manatee and the groundhog-like hyrax, have many.

Related article:  A third of cancer drug clinical trials don’t report on race. Here’s why that matters

LIF6 appeared in elephant genes some 59 million years ago, the study authors suggest. And initially, it was likely a useless, broken gene. But as elephants’ proboscidean ancestors evolved, so, too, did the gene. It was eventually reawakened as a working “zombie” gene—a change that may have helped elephants reach such momentous sizes unrestricted by cancer.

The ultimate hope is that studying animals’ cancer defenses can aid in the development of cancer treatments for humans.

Read full, original post: Cancer Rarely Strikes Elephants. New Clues Suggest Why

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend