Advertising
Advertising

Scientists Find Why Elephants Are Less Likely To Get Cancer

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.

Advertising

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).

Advertising

“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.

Advertising

“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.

Advertising

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.”

More by this author

15 Best Autobiographies Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives 20 Medical Benefits of Marijuana You Probably Never Knew Science Says People Who Talk To Themselves Are Geniuses Quotes From Socrates That Are Full Of Wisdom 10 Little Things Happy Couples Do Every Day

Trending in Health

1 Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally 2 How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max 3 10 Benefits of Sleeping Naked You Probably Didn’t Know 4 The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight 5 Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 23, 2018

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

The Neural Knitwork Project

In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

Advertising

While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

The knitting and neural connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

More mental health benefits from knitting

Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

Advertising

“You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

Advertising

“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

The dopamine effect on our happiness

Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

Advertising

“Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

Read Next