Written by: on October 13, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Scientists have really struggled to explain why elephants rarely ever get cancer. But they may have finally cracked it: According to a new study, it’s all in the genes. Well, one gene, and their 20 copies of it.

These massive mammals have about 20 copies of TP53, a gene that codes for a potent tumor-blocking protein.. Humans have just one copy of TP53. “An extra dose (or 19) of the anticancer gene may explain why elephants have unusually low cancer rates”, says Joshua Schiffman, a pediatric oncologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

According to ScienceNews.com, “Schiffman’s team pored over 14 years of animal autopsy data from the San Diego Zoo, and a separate database that included detailed info on 644 elephant deaths. Based on those data, the team calculated that just 4.8 percent of elephants die of cancer. For humans, that number is anywhere from 11 to 25 percent.”

Cancer deaths track with gene copies

Source: L.M. Abegglen et al/JAMA 2015

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