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Here it is the secret of elephants rarely infected with cancer. Can it be applied to humans?

Here it is the secret of elephants rarely infected with cancer. Can it be applied to humans?
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Here it is the secret of elephants rarely infected with cancer - Currently, around 17% of deaths worldwide are caused by cancer. While the number of elephants that die from cancer is only 5% when the average age of their lives is the same as humans, which is around 70 years.

Out of curiosity, a team led by a human geneticist, Vincent Lynch, who teaches at the University of Chicago and researchers from the University of Utah then examined this.

They suspect this may be related to the presence of the p53 gene which functions to suppress tumors in elephants. The specialty of this gene is to recognize damaged DNA and push it into programmed cell death, also called autophagy.

So the diseased cells will be damaged and digested by the body's own immune system so that it cannot develop into tumor cells.

This gene actually also exists in humans and in almost all mammals, at least one copy of the gene.

Gen zombie
To their surprise, the elephants did not only have one but 20 copies of the p53 gene in their genetic makeup. As a result, these cells react much more sensitive to any damage to the genome and start cell death earlier.

However, through this study, the researchers also found another breakthrough. "Genes duplicate themselves all the time," Lynch said. "Sometimes they also make mistakes, producing a version of a nonfunctional gene known as pseudogenes."

While continuing to examine the p53 gene, the researchers discovered a pseudogene called leukemia 6 inhibiting factors (LIF6). Remarkably, the pseudogene elephant can suddenly function again. In other words, this gene rises from the dead.

Genes are like zombies, which then destroy the energy supply of diseased cells.

LIF6 works by punching holes in the mitochondria that function as power plants in cells and causing the diseased cells to die. "Like a zombie. This dead gene revives. It is revived by damaged DNA cells and then kills those cells, quickly," Lynch explained.

"This is beneficial for elephants, because these cells act in response to genetic errors, and also mistakes made when DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of those cells can prevent next cancer."

The researchers published their research in the journal Cell Reports on August 14, 2018.

Can it be applied to humans?
The LIF6 gene is thought to have been active in elephants for millions of years. This gene also seems to have existed in the bodies of modern elephant ancestors today, the Hyrax that lived around 25 to 30 million years ago.

The height of Hyrax at that time was almost no greater than that of a guinea pig. The mechanism of cancer cell proliferation may be also responsible for the size of the elephant.

Large animals have more cells and cell division systems than smaller animals. For this reason, the researchers assume that they also need a very effective mechanism to suppress or remove tumor cells.

Lynch and his colleagues now want to try using an elephant strategy in the treatment of cancer of the human body.

"Maybe we can find a way to develop drugs that can mimic the behavior of LIF6 in elephants or make cancer cells to revive copies of their zombie cells," he said.

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