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
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.