The genes of long-living and virus resistant bats may provide clues to the future treatment and prevention of infectious diseases and cancer in people, researchers have found.
Published in the journal Science, the research provides an insight into the evolution of bat's flight, resistance to viruses and relatively long life.
Researchers at CSIRO and the Beijing Genome Institute led a team sequencing the genomes of two bat species - an Australian mega bat, the black flying fox, and a Chinese micro bat, David's Myotis. They then compared the bat genomes to the genomes of eight other mammals, including humans, to find similarities and differences.
Dr Chris Cowled, post-doctoral fellow at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory, said the research may eventually lead to strategies to prevent or treat disease in humans. "A deeper understanding of these evolutionary adaptations in bats may lead to better treatments for human diseases, and may eventually enable us to predict or perhaps even prevent outbreaks of emerging bat viruses," Dr Cowled said.
"Bats are a natural reservoir for several lethal viruses, such as Hendra, Ebola and SARS, but they often don't succumb to disease from these viruses. They're also the only mammal that can fly, and they live a long time compared to animals similar in size," Dr Cowled said. "Flying is a very energy intensive activity that produces toxic by-products but we can see that bats have some novel genes to deal with these toxins," he said. Some of these genes, including P53, are implicated in the development of cancer or the detection and repair of damaged DNA. "
What we found intriguing was that some of these genes also have secondary roles in the immune system," Dr Cowled said. "We're proposing that the evolution of flight led to a sort of spill over effect, influencing not only the immune system, but also things like ageing and cancer."
The research also reaffirms bats' ancient and important place in the eco-system, particularly as pollinators and controlling insect numbers. "They've been around since the time of the dinosaurs, at least 65 million years, and they're among the most abundant and widespread mammals on the earth."
CSIRO Australia: http://www.csiro.au
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In the article on the discovery of dinosaurs (They’re back, Review, 6 June) you state: “In Sussex, a local doctor uncovered fragmentary remains of what appeared to be two more species of colossal extinct land reptiles.” You grossly underplay the contribution of Lewes-born Gideon Mantell, geologist and palaeontologist, author and diarist, friend to princes and international scholars as well as local doctor. Mantell not only discovered (aided by his wife) the first remains of the iguanodon in 1824 but named it – as it resembled the tooth of an iguana. This was the first known land dinosaur, Mary Anning having identified the first sea-living dinosaur.Mantell went on to put together more pieces of the jigsaw with extra fossil discoveries. In contrast to Richard Owen, whose models form the basis for the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, Mantell stated correctly that iguanodon would have walked on their back legs, using their forearms to fight or gather food. He did, however, attribute the thumb spike to a nose horn though later corrected this assumption. The Natural History Museum has a display on Gideon and his wife Mary’s contribution as well as the large “Mantell-piece” of Iguanodon fossils that he had on show in his museum in Brighton. He sold it, along with many more priceless items, to the British Museum in 1838. Gideon Mantell’s reputation deserves better than your throwaway remark. Debby MatthewsLewes, East Sussex Continue reading...
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