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Scientists Find Why Elephants Are Less Likely To Get Cancer

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Scientists Find Why Elephants Are Less Likely To Get Cancer

Did you know that besides humans, animals also die of cancer at the same percentage as us? It is also believed that some animals are moving toward extinction because of this deadly illness. And then, there are those animals that never get cancer. One big example is elephants.

The reason behind why elephants are less likely to get cancer is due to additional copies of a gene encoding tumor protein suppressor, p53. A new study performed by the researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at University of Utah Health Sciences, and researchers from the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, shows this phenomenal result. Also, the study conducted that elephants have built-in powerful system of killing cancerous cells.

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Elephants dying out of cancer is 5% compared to 11 to 25% of humans dying out of cancer have baffled the scientists for many years. In order to solve this mystery, the scientists, along with the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, Primary Children’s Hospital, and Utah’s HogleZoo, have performed experiments for several years. On a conclusion, they have discovered that elephants have 38 additional modified copies of a gene that encodes p53, a compound that subdues tumor development. Comparatively, humans have only 2. To come up with a solid answer, the scientists compared the elephants genes with healthy human genes, and genes from a group of patients suffering from Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. The patients have a 90% chance of developing cancer in their lifetime, and have only 1 copy of p53. The lifespan of elephants are from 50 to 70 years, and they have 100 times more cells than us. This made the scientists wonder that among so many cells, at least one or two would trigger cancer. But they don’t.

These results have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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“Nature has already figured out how to prevent cancer. It’s up to us to learn how different animals tackle the problem so we can adapt those strategies to prevent cancer in people,” said co-senior author Joshua Schiffman, M.D., pediatric oncologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah School of Medicine , and Primary Children’s Hospital.

Schiffman and his team scoured through the African elephant genome, and uncovered 40 copies of genes that code for p53. This is a huge amount, given that humans have only 2 copies. What the team did next was they extracted white blood cells from the elephants during their routine check-ups, and subjected the cells to treatments that damage DNA. As a reply, the cells self-destructed, meaning, the cells died, and would be unable to turn into cancer.

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“If you kill the damage cell, it’s gone, and it can’t turn into cancer. This maybe more effective of an approach to cancer prevention than trying to stop a mutated cell from dividing and not being able to completely repair itself,” said Schiffman.

The team, then did another experiment. In order to see if more p53 can prevent cancer, they took cells from elephants (n=8), healthy humans (n=10), and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome patients (n=10), and exposed the cells to radiation. The response showed that elephant cells self-destructed at twice the rate of healthy humans, and more than five times the rate of Li-Fraumeni patients (14.6%, 7.2% and 2.7% respectively). These results supported the idea that more p53 can prevent against cancer. The scientists believe that too much p53 is nature’s way of protecting these majestic animals from cancer.

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Of course, there will be further studies and researches to see if the same can be applied to humans. “If the elephants can hold the key to unlocking some of the mysteries of cancer, then we will see an increased awareness of the plight of elephants worldwide,” said Eric Peterson, elephant manager at Utah’s Hogle Zoo. “What a fantastic benefit: elephants and humans living longer, better lives.”

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Sumaiya Kabir

Sumaiya is a passionate writer who shares thoughts and ideas to help people improve themselves.

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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