- Bats are known for their ability to tolerate viruses and their low cancer rates
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They have been heavily vilified due to their connection to the Covid pandemic – but bats could hold the secret to curing cancer.
A new study found that some species contain more than 50 unique genes that may make them immune to tumors – despite living exceptionally long lives.
Bats have puzzled scientists for years because they have the unique ability to live normally with viruses that kill or sicken most other mammals – and people.
But this ability to tolerate viruses put them at the center of the question of the origin of Covid, which is believed to have originated in animals.
Researchers hope that by better understanding their miracle immune system, they can develop ways to prevent and treat cancer in humans.
They have been heavily vilified due to their connection to the Covid pandemic – but bats could hold the secret to curing cancer
Armin Scheben, a postdoctoral researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and lead author of the study, told DailyMail.com: “Bats’ DNA contains anti-cancer genes that allow bats to resist cancer,” Scheben said.
“Our research identifies several genes capable of suppressing tumors that have acquired genetic alterations in bats, which we believe increases the ability of bats to resist cancer better than other mammals, including humans.”
“Our results are a first step toward developing bat-inspired cancer therapeutics to prevent and treat cancer in humans.”
Many wild animals can develop cancer, but because age is a risk factor, most do not survive long enough to develop it.
Bats have long lifespans – some live as long as humans – and yet rarely develop cancer.
In the latest study, researchers analyzed the complete gene set of two bat species – the Jamaican flying fox and the Central American mustache bat.
They compared the genome analysis with those of other mammals.
They found genetic adaptations in 46 cancer-related proteins that previous researchers had already found to suppress cancer. They also found genetic adaptations in six proteins related to DNA repair.
“We wanted to expand our understanding of how certain species are more resistant to cancer than humans and how these species also generally age more slowly than other mammals such as humans,” researcher Richard McCombie, one of the study’s authors, told DailyMail.com .
The article was published in Genome Biology and Evolution.
According to the study, bats could be responsible for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, also known as Covid-19, as closely related viruses have been detected in wild bats.
Bats are known for their ability to harbor and survive viruses like SARS-CoV-2, their longevity and their low cancer rates, the study said, making them interesting to researchers looking to find effects on humans and other mammals.
Scheben noted that climate change may accelerate the transmission of infections from bats to humans. Therefore, understanding how bats tolerate infections can help researchers find treatments that mimic their antiviral abilities.
“Understanding how these genes function can advance the future development of therapeutics that prevent or cure human diseases, for example by dampening the inflammatory overreactions that lead to serious consequences in human infections, such as we are seeing with Covid-19,” said Sheave.
“By generating these new bat genomes and comparing them to other mammals, we continue to find extraordinary new adaptations in antiviral and anticancer genes,” Armin Scheben, the study’s lead author, said in a press release.