Nov 25, 2021 19:59 GMT
According to the research, these animals “evolved to have extra copies of genes, called duplications”, which favor them.
The giant tortoises of the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands normally live for more than 100 years. A study carried out by researchers from several US universities and published in the journal ‘Genome Biology and Evolution’ has revealed the secret of its “evolutionary success”.
The researchers concluded that, compared to other turtles, these giant animals “evolved to have extra copies of genescalled duplications, which can protect against the ravages of aging, including cancer. “
“Laboratory tests on Galapagos giant tortoise cells support the idea that animals have developed such defenses,” says Vincent Lynch, a biologist at the University at Buffalo.
Specifically, in the tests carried out by these researchers, they found that the cells of these animals are super sensitive to certain types of stress related to damaged proteins. “When exposed to these pressures, cells self-destruct much more easily than other turtle cells, through a process called apoptosis, “says Lynch.
So, he explains, that self-destruction or “suicide” of defective cells before they have a chance to form tumors could help turtles avoid cancer.
“The findings are particularly intriguing because, all other things being equal, huge animals that live for a long time should have the highest cancer rates. This is because large, long-lived things have many more cells, and the more cells they have. a body, the more opportunities there are for cancerous mutations to emerge, “says the press release on the study.
Imitate in humans
The research was carried out out of “sheer curiosity,” says Lynch, but notes that “the findings could also have practical implications,” insofar as these findings can be “translated into something that benefits human health and disease. “.
“We are not going to treat humans with Galapagos tortoise genes, but maybe we can find a drug that mimics certain functions important “, he specified.
Scott Glaberman, an assistant professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University and another of those involved in the research, noted that “extreme species like the Galapagos giant tortoises probably hold many secrets for dealing with major human challenges like the aging and cancer, and even climate change. “