This is an Inside Science story.
(Inside Science) – “I’ve always been so enamored with elephants — one of the things that’s just amazing to me is that elephants have such an incredibly low rate of cancer. And it doesn’t make any sense that elephants have a low rate of cancer, because they’re so big and their cells are dividing so fast,” explains Matthew LaPlante, author of the book Superlatives: The Biology of Extremes.
For a long time, it was a mystery how elephants managed to grow so big without getting cancer, because every time a cell divides, there is a risk that it could mutate into a cancerous form. And it takes a lot of cell divisions for an elephant embryo to grow into a 13,000-pound animal.
“I mean, this is happening in a petri dish, but it’s really exciting. You have these cancer cells and when — they’re human cells, but they’ve been taught essentially to act like elephant cells would. And so, when a mutation happens that’s cancerous the cells, instead of reproducing, just kill themselves. For a really long time we figured like the way we’re going to have to fight cancer was one cancer at a time, because they’re very different. But this process appears to work for every kind of cancer that they’ve tried it on,” concluded LaPlante.
For more information, visit the Schiffman Lab at the University of Utah.
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