Decoded: How bat’s rapid genetic evolution helped prevent cancer

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New York, Sep 25 (IANS) Rapid genetic evolution in bats may account for the animal’s extraordinary ability to both host and survive infections as well as avoid cancer, according to a new study.

Bats are exceptional among mammals for not only their ability to fly, but also for their long lives, low cancer rates, and robust immune systems.

In the study, published in Genome Biology and Evolution journal, researchers sequenced the genomes of two bat species — the Jamaican fruit bat and the Mesoamerican moustached bat. They carried out a comprehensive comparative genomic analysis with a diverse collection of bats and other mammals.

They have collected the bat samples using the Oxford Nanopore Technologies long-read platform — a third-generation, single-molecule sequencing platform.

Researchers from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and University of Oklahoma in the US found genetic adaptations in six DNA repair-related proteins and 46 proteins in bats that were cancer-related, meaning that researchers have previously found that such proteins suppress cancer.

Notably, the study found that these altered cancer-related genes were enriched more than two-fold in the bat group compared to other mammals.

“By generating these new bat genomes and comparing them to other mammals we continue to find extraordinary new adaptations in antiviral and anticancer genes,” said Armin Scheben, paper’s lead author.

“These investigations are the first step towards translating research on the unique biology of bats into insights relevant to understanding and treating ageing and diseases, such as cancer, in humans,” Scheben added.

According to the researchers, the ability of bats to tolerate viral infections may stem from unusual features of their innate immune response. By better understanding the mechanisms of the bat immune system that allow bats to tolerate viral infections, researchers may be better able to prevent disease outbreaks from animals to people.

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