HOME ABOUT CONTACT AVAILABLE ISSUES SUBSCRIBE MEDIA & ADS
LATEST UPDATES » Vol 23, No 03, March 2019 – Driven by curiosity — Exclusive interview with Nobel laureate Ada Yonath: Her journey in science wasn't always crystal clear       » Your eyes don't deceive you, your brain does       » Organ donations to be computerised in China       » Over One tenth of Chinese people have mental health problems       » AI system can diagnose childhood diseases like doctors       » Bitter rapeseed potential protein source for human nutrition      
BIOBOARD - REST OF THE WORLD
Zombie gene protects against cancer in elephants
Dead gene reborn helps destroy cells with damaged DNA

An estimated 17 percent of humans worldwide die from cancer, but less than five percent of captive elephants—who also live for about 70 years, and have about 100 times as many potentially cancerous cells as humans—die from the disease.

It was thought that bigger animals have vastly more cells, and they tend to live longer, which means more time and opportunities to accumulate cancer-causing mutations. But in the study, it suggests elephants may have protection from cancer because of a unique "zombie" gene.

Three years ago, research teams from the University of Chicago and the University of Utah, working separately, began to unravel why. They knew that humans, like all other animals, have one copy of the master tumor suppressor gene p53. This gene enables humans and elephants to recognise unrepaired DNA damage, a precursor of cancer. Then it causes those damaged cells to die.

Unexpectedly, however, the researchers found that elephants have 20 copies of p53. This makes their cells significantly more sensitive to damaged DNA and quicker to engage in cellular suicide.

Published in Cell Reports, the University of Chicago team describes a second element of this process: an anti-cancer gene that returned from the dead.

“Genes duplicate all the time,” said Vincent Lynch, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and the study’s senior author. “Sometimes they make mistakes, producing non-functional versions known as pseudogenes. We often refer to these dismissively as dead genes.”

While studying p53 in elephants, however, Lynch and colleagues found a former pseudogene called leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6) that had somehow evolved a new on-switch. LIF6, back from the dead, had become a valuable working gene. Its function, when activated by p53, is to respond to damaged DNA by killing the cell. The LIF6 gene makes a protein that goes, quite rapidly, to the mitochondria, the cell’s main energy source. That protein pokes holes in the mitochondria, causing the cell to die.

“Hence, zombie,” said Lynch. “This dead gene came back to life. When it gets turned on by damaged DNA, it kills that cell, quickly. This is beneficial, because it acts in response to genetic mistakes, errors made when the DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of that cell can prevent a subsequent cancer.”

Elephants have eight LIF genes, but only LIF6 is known to be functional. Although it was only recently described, it appears to have been helping elephants and their relatives for a long time.

Exactly how LIF6 induces apoptosis, however, remains unclear. This will be “the focus of continued studies,” the authors wrote.

Click here for the complete issue.

NEWS CRUNCH  
news Which country has the worst sleepers
news Asia is the fastest growing region for nutraceuticals
news 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winners
news Vitafoods Asia expands by 40 per cent in 2018
PR NEWSWIRE  
Asia Pacific Biotech News
EDITORS' CHOICE  
COLUMNS  

APBN Editorial Calendar 2019
January:
Taiwan Medical tourism
February:
Marijuana as medicine — Legal marijuana will open up scientific research
March:
Driven by curiosity
Editorial calendar is subjected to changes.
MAGAZINE TAGS
About Us
Events
Available issues
Editorial Board
Letters to Editor
Instructions to Authors
Advertise with Us
CONTACT
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.
5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore 596224
Tel: 65-6466-5775
Fax: 65-6467-7667
» For Editorial Enquiries:
   biotech_edit@wspc.com or Ms Lim Guan Yu
» For Subscriptions, Advertisements &
   Media Partnerships Enquiries:
   biotech_ad@wspc.com
Copyright© 2019 World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd  •  Privacy Policy