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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why Elephants Do Not Get Cancer

It is a fact that it is becoming harder and harder to get funding for medical research. With that in mind there may have been times when you wondered, for example, why are they spending scarce money studying the genetics of elephants. Here is an answer.

New research shows that elephants rarely get cancer.  It seems that only about 4.8% of elephants die from cancer compared to about 25%  of humans. You may say "so what" but the reason for this disparity may help save human lives.

It turns out that the genome of the African elephant is different than that of humans. Elephants have 20 pairs of a TP53 gene that produces a tumor suppressing protein. This protein prevents cells from dividing in an uncontrolled way. Humans have just one pair of this important gene, and humans have a much higher incidence of cancer.

A little finding like this may lead to the development of new and previously unknown treatments for many human cancers and by so doing save many many lives.

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