The Miracle Zombie Gene?

Many of us dread finding a lump in our skin and hearing those three words come out of our doctor’s mouth: “You have cancer”. It is a scary, but pervasive part of the world we live in. Cancer is usually the result of a mutation in our cells’ DNA that causes it to divide endlessly, forming a tumour. Having more cells or living longer increases the chance of developing one of these harmful mutations. It would make sense, then, that one of the planet’s largest living creatures, the elephant, would get cancer far more often than us humans. However, scientists have discovered that this is not the case. As it turns out, elephants have a “zombie gene” (perfect name…) called LIF6, which in most species is a part of the DNA molecule that is inactive, but in elephants that causes mutated cells to destroy themselves in a self-destructive process called apoptosis before they can form tumours. This is a ground-breaking discovery, and we can only hope that this information will help researchers in their search for a cure.

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