One would think that it’s the 21st century so somewhere along this technologically advanced generation somehow we would have reached a cure for cancer right? Or at least be pretty freakin close to one. But, yet we still have nothing. Nothing major enough to FINALLY end this death sentence for good and finally bring peace to many people who have been fighting this battle or lost ones to it.
Well, not SO fast…according to Faith Karimi’s article, “Elephant genes hold clues for fight against cancer, scientists say,” we might be on the brink of something great. Apparently, elephants are mammals that destroy damaged cells before they become cancerous. “The mammoth mammals rarely get cancer, which has long bewildered scientists considering elephants have 100 times as many cells as humans,” according to scientists in Karimi’s article.
Why though is the real question?
According to scientists elephants have extra genes that stop tumors from growing. They have at least 40 copies of genes that code for p53, a protein well known for the its cancer-inhibiting properties while us humans only have two copies. Thus making them less likely to get cancer and even more likely to be able to destroy before it becomes a threat to their livelihood. “Elephants may have a more robust mechanism for killing damaged cells that are at risk for becoming cancerous,” Karimi explained.
In order to test this scientists within this study extracted white blood cells from elephants , which are essential to the body from protecting against illness and disease. Once the white blood cells were extracted scientists damaged the cells. “This may be more effective of an approach to cancer prevention than trying to stop a mutated cell from dividing and not being able to completely repair itself,” Karimi stated.
While this study was indeed an experimental one due to the fact that white blood cells were manipulated and damaged by the scientists, it seems to lack some sort of control and randomized grouping. This experiment may be consistent with the hypothesis, however there isn’t enough evidence to reject the null or accept the alternative hypothesis. This experiment might have reaped more benefits if they had taken cells from both humans and elephants to see the impact of p53 in both of them after the manipulation. It could be possible that using cells or other genes from elephants with cancer like cells in the human body could show a reduction in cancer. Or potentially lead us to the full impact of p53 at least.
They could even take it a step further by getting two groups separating them into healthy patients and cancer patients. Scientists could develop a way to inject more p53 in patients. Once the patients have received p53 they would be followed for a year to study the results. Scientists could compare the healthy patients and if they were less likely to get cancer due to the increase of p53 and if the cancer patients had an increase of survival due to the increase in p53 helping them fight it off. This would help better prove that the manipulation within the experiment caused the outcome and decreased the chances of error or bias.
Scientists are hopeful that this newfound discovery will bring some insight into the fight to end cancer. “It’s up to us to learn how different animals tackle the problem so we can adapt those strategies to prevent cancer in people,” Karimi wrote.
Who knows what this new discovery will bring but one step closer means one less step back in this continuing battle.