Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Regulatory genetic sequences in cetaceans may help combat cancer.

Scientists from Brazil's University of Campinas Institute of Biology recently looked into a specific genetic sequence found within whales that confirmed evolutionary relationships amongst different species.  Whales fall into two general groups, which are baleen whales (mysticeti) and toothed whales (odonceti).  Baleen whales tend to be massive like the blue whale while toothed whales tend be on the smaller side like dolphins.  The researchers found that the promoter region of the gene NCAPG plays an important role in coding for proteins that allow cetaceans to grow to massive sizes.  The proteins are more active in larger whales while less active in smaller whales.  It confirmed why a species such as the sperm whale, which has teeth, is closely related to similarly giant baleen whales that lack teeth.

The researchers also speculated that this gene could have a role in stopping the proliferation of cancer cells.  Cetaceans, although being animals with many cells, surprisingly don't get cancer as frequently as humans do.  Humans happen to have these genes that the whales have.  So, if it can be determined that these genes have a role in regulating tumor formation in whales, this knowledge can be applied to cancer treatment in humans.

This article is interesting in how what the researchers basically confirmed evolutionary relationships amongst whales.  Again using the example of the sperm whale, tooth whales usually don't get to the size of the sperm whale.  However the information found about the NCAPG gene confirms sperm whales are closely related to baleen whales despite falling into a different category.  The article seems to be a little click-baity in regards to the gene being applied to cancer treatment.  This is because the researchers hadn't found anything about how the gene prevents tumors, they were just speculating about it.  But, it would be exciting if it were discovered that the gene does in fact prevent cancer.

 Article Link: https://www.sciencealert.com/the-genetic-secret-of-giant-ocean-creatures-is-finally-revealed

Additional info on Promoters in Genes: https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Promoter

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