Bowhead whales may have a cancer-defying superpower: DNA repair

Monday, June 12, 2023 - 08:23 in Biology & Nature

Near the northern tip of Alaska, on the outskirts of the Arctic Ocean, bowhead whales have given scientists a glimpse into longevity. The gigantic marine mammals can live more than 200 years — and tissue samples collected from the animals reveal a fix-it superpower that might explain how. Bowhead whales’ cells are whizzes at repairing damaged DNA, scientists report May 8 at That ability means the animals might mend damage that could otherwise lead to cancer-causing genetic glitches, says Orsolya Vincze, an evolutionary ecologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, who was not involved with the research. Scientists have previously reported other animals’ biological strategies for avoiding cancer. But the new work, Vincze says, “shows that the whales approach cancer resistance from a very new perspective.” The bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, can grow to roughly 18 meters long and is among the heaviest mammals on Earth. At more...

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