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Bowhead whales may unlock the secrets to a long, healthy life

Map of giant cetacean’s genome could explain its 200-year lifespan

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4:53pm, January 6, 2015
bowhead whale

SENIOR CETACEANS  The bowhead whale is the first large whale to have its genome analyzed. Researchers are using the genetic blueprint to study why the whales can live longer than 200 years.

For clues to the genetic underpinnings of a long, healthy life, researchers have unlocked the genome of the massive bowhead whale. The bowhead whale’s genes contain distinct characteristics that help stave off cancer and problems related to aging, researchers suggest in the January 6 Cell Reports.

The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) can live more than 200 years, making it the longest-lived mammal. Despite having 1,000 times more cells than humans, bowhead whales do not have a higher risk of cancer. To understand the bowhead whales’ health and longevity, scientists analyzed the animal’s genetic instructions and compared them to the human, mouse and cow genomes.

The scientists discovered differences, including mutations and duplications, in the whale genes that are tied to cancer, aging and cell division. The results suggest that the whales are better than

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