Elephant genes could hold the secret to preventing cancer

Elephants could hold the key to curing cancer, new research reveals. Researchers from the University of Oxford say these giant mammals carry an army of tumor-fighting proteins that destroy mutated cells.

The discovery explains why Earth’s largest land animals are over five times less likely to develop the disease than humans. Harnessing the genes could lead to a “one-size-fits-all” therapy for one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

“This intricate and intriguing study demonstrates how much more there is to elephants than impressive size and how important it is that we not only conserve but also study these signature animals in minute detail. After all, their genetics and physiology are all driven by evolutionary history as well as today’s ecology, diet and behavior,” says study co-author Professor Fritz Vollrath in a university release.

Elephants exhibit high resistance to cancer, with mortality rates of less than five percent, compared to up to 25 percent among people. The phenomenon has puzzled biologists for decades, since larger creatures should be at greater risk.

Elephants carry more genome ‘guardians’

Cells keep dividing throughout an organism’s life, each carrying the risk of producing a tumor. However, elephants inherit 40 versions of a gene called p53, 20 from each parent. Scientists call them the “guardian of the genome.” They hunt down and kill cells with faulty DNA. All other mammals only have two versions of the gene.

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