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.
Check out these colorful images of crystallized alcoholic beverages
Large stretches may be no more than biological baggage, say researchers after comparing genome with that of other mammals
Specially designed mobile games can help scientists answer important questions about cognition, a team finds.
Tinnitus is a chronic ringing in the ears that can be debilitating. Now, an implant that stimulates a nerve in the neck could eliminate the sounds for good
New fossils suggest it was not just bird-like dinosaurs that had elaborate feathers – the other major dinosaur group had them too
Natural Trap Cave holds the fossils of thousands of animals who plunged to their deaths over tens of thousands of years
What’s scarier than a tyrannosaur? Three tyrannosaurs.
The timing of when a girl reaches puberty is controlled by hundreds of genes, say scientists.
After the world's most expensive salvage operation, the ill-fated Costa Concordia is being floated back to Genoa, where it will be chopped up for scrap metal
Hijacking how neurons of nematode worms are wired is the first step in an approach that could revolutionise our understanding of brains and consciousness