A resurrected gene may protect elephants from cancer | Science News

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A resurrected gene may protect elephants from cancer

LIF6 instructs damaged cells to self-destruct before the disease has a chance to take hold

By
2:23pm, August 14, 2018
elephants

SECRET WEAPON  Elephants have some unique defenses against cancer, including a once-dormant gene that plays a role in killing damaged cells before they have a chance to turn cancerous.

Elephants rarely succumb to cancer. That’s surprising given how large the animals grow and how long they can live, which should provide more opportunities for cells to morph into cancer cells. A newly described gene that was brought back from the dead may take part in protecting the animals from the disease.

A deep dive into elephants’ evolutionary history revealed a defunct gene called LIF6 that was somehow resurrected roughly 59 million years ago, around the time that elephants’ ancestors began to develop larger body sizes. Found only in elephants and their ancestral kin, LIF6 is triggered by another gene, TP53, to put cells out of commission at the first sign of damage before they turn cancerous, researchers report online August 14 in Cell Reports.

Previous research on elephants’ cancer-fighting powers focused on TP53,

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