Elephants protecting themselves from cancer


This October 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

A study led by the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah could explain why elephants rarely get cancer.

From the University of Chicago Medical Center in the USA:

Zombie gene protects against cancer — in elephants

Dead gene reborn helps destroy cells with damaged DNA

August 14, 2018

Summary: LIF6, a dead gene that came back to life, prevents cancer by killing cells with DNA damage.

An estimated 17 percent of humans worldwide die from cancer, but less than five percent of captive elephants — who also live for about 70 years, and have about 100 times as many potentially cancerous cells as humans — die from the disease.

Three years ago, research teams from the University of Chicago and the University of Utah, working separately, began to unravel why. They knew that humans, like all other animals, have one copy of the master tumor suppressor gene p53. This gene enables humans and elephants to recognize unrepaired DNA damage, a precursor of cancer. Then it causes those damaged cells to die.

Unexpectedly, however, the researchers found that elephants have 20 copies of p53. This makes their cells significantly more sensitive to damaged DNA and quicker to engage in cellular suicide.

In the August 14, 2018 issue of the journal Cell Reports, the University of Chicago team describes a second element of this process: an anti-cancer gene that returned from the dead.

“Genes duplicate all the time”, said Vincent Lynch, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and the study’s senior author. “Sometimes they make mistakes, producing non-functional versions known as pseudogenes. We often refer to these dismissively as dead genes.”

While studying p53 in elephants, however, Lynch and colleagues found a former pseudogene called leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6) that had somehow evolved a new on-switch. LIF6, back from the dead, had become a valuable working gene. Its function, when activated by p53, is to respond to damaged DNA by killing the cell. The LIF6 gene makes a protein that goes, quite rapidly, to the mitochondria, the cell’s main energy source. That protein pokes holes in the mitochondria, causing the cell to die.

“Hence, zombie”, said Lynch. “This dead gene came back to life. When it gets turned on by damaged DNA, it kills that cell, quickly. This is beneficial, because it acts in response to genetic mistakes, errors made when the DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of that cell can prevent a subsequent cancer.”

Elephants have eight LIF genes, but only LIF6 is known to be functional. Although it was only recently described, it appears to have been helping elephants and their relatives for a long time.

“We can use the tricks of evolution to try to figure out when this defunct gene became functional again”, Lynch said. It seems to have emerged around the time when the fossil record indicates that the small groundhog-sized precursors of today’s elephants began to grow bigger. This started about 25 to 30 million years ago. This supplementary method of suppressing cancer may have been a key element enabling enormous growth, which eventually led to modern elephants.

There are significant and lasting benefits to being huge. Small animals, for example — mice, squirrels, groundhogs — get eaten all the time, mostly by larger animals. But “if you are enormous, such as an elephant or a whale, nothing is going to mess with you”, Lynch said.

There are tradeoffs, however. Bigger animals have vastly more cells, and they tend to live longer, which means more time and opportunities to accumulate cancer-causing mutations. When those cells divide, their DNA makes copies of itself. But those copies don’t match the original. Errors get introduced and the repair process can’t catch up.

“Large, long-lived animals must have evolved robust mechanisms to either suppress or eliminate cancerous cells in order to live as long as they do, and reach their adult sizes”, said study co-author Juan Manuel Vazquez, a doctoral candidate in the Lynch laboratory.

These huge animals thus have higher odds of developing cancerous cells. This can also happen on a smaller scale. Taller humans, for example, have a slightly higher incidence of several cancer types than average sized people, and shorter people tend to be at a reduced risk for those cancers.

LIF6, the study authors suggest, was “reanimated sometime before the demands of maintaining a larger body existed.” It helped enable the growth of animals that were the size of a 10-pound groundhog into majestic creatures that can weigh more than 15,000 pounds. It was “permissive for the origin of large bodies”, the authors note, “but not sufficient.”

Exactly how LIF6 induces apoptosis, however, remains unclear. This will be “the focus of continued studies”, the authors wrote.

See also here.

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Playing Bach piano for a blind elephant


This video says about itself:

Bach on Piano for Blind Elephant

30 June 2018

Lam Duan is the name of an old blind elephant, her name means “Tree with Yellow Flowers”. Lam Duan has been blind most of her life. Lam Duan lives at Elephants World, Thailand.

Baby African elephant’s first bath


This video says about itself:

Baby Elephant takes her First Bath | BBC Earth

14 June 2018

An elephant calf just a few days old has her first bath in the waterhole with her helpful nanny elephants – but climbing out is harder than getting in.

Elephant Family and Me: Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to the spectacular Tsavo wilderness in Kenya to try to get closer than ever before to a wild elephant family. African elephants are among the most dangerous animals in the world, killing more people than lions or any other predator. But Gordon believes that elephants become dangerous only because of our actions towards them.

Young female orphan elephants have a tougher social life than non-orphans, a new study suggests, adding to a growing body of evidence of how the impacts of poaching cascade through elephant societies: here.

Elephant herd celebrates birth of baby


This video says about itself:

Elephant Herd Celebrates a New Born Calf | BBC Earth

10 June 2018

A new born elephant baby brings joy to the elephant herd.

Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to the spectacular Tsavo wilderness in Kenya to try to get closer than ever before to a wild elephant family. African elephants are one of the most dangerous animals in the world, killing more people than lions or any other predator. But Gordon believes that elephants become dangerous only because of our actions towards them.

British Conservative smears Grenfell disaster survivors


Elizabeth Campbell (left), the Conservative leader of the council linked to Grenfell Tower, who has condemned comments by former Conservative MP Victoria Borwick (right) that compared the west London community to ’gangs‘

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Former Kensington Tory MP was always ‘hostile’ towards community, says Grenfell group

FORMER Kensington Tory MP Victoria Borwick was condemned today by a Grenfell Tower justice group for her “hostile” attitude towards the community after she likened them to “gangs”.

Ms Borwick was reported by the Mail yesterday to have emailed then council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown to say that it would be hard to help the less wealthy residents of the borough because “rather like gangs, they don’t go into another territory.”

She added that a “lack of education” among the residents compounded confusion over circumstances surrounding the fire that killed 72 people.

Moyra Samuels of Justice 4 Grenfell told the Star that Ms Borwick’s disdain was to be expected considering her track record.

The title of this baroness is Lady Borwick.

More about Lady Borwick’s track record, apart from her smearing of survivors of a bloody disaster:

Sneakily, May, Leadsom and the Tories have decided to abandon their previous commitment to introducing a total ban on the ivory trade in Britain. They have done it after heavy lobbying from wealthy London antiques traders who have been pressing the Prime Minister hard to drop the ban.

The most powerful antique traders association is the British Antique Dealers’ Association. Its president is Lady Victoria Borwick, Tory MP for Kensington and long-term pal and ally of May.

On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory and their population has fallen by almost a third in Africa since 2007. As I have warned in these pages before, the African elephant population is hurtling towards extinction in the wild.

The Lamiat Sabin article continues:

She said: “The comments from Victoria Borwick come as no surprise to many of us in North Kensington.

The disdainful and indifferent attitude of the council to the needs of the community before the fire happened is common knowledge.

“They have had a feudal attitude to North Kensington that has been exemplified in the closure or sell off of many community resources — like the Maxilla nursery and local library.

“Ms Borwick’s hostile attitude to Notting Hill Carnival has also revealed her fear and lack of knowledge of the local black and minority ethnic (BME) community, which is why she lost her seat.

“The only gang we see is the mafia that was the council cabinet.”

Kensington’s first ever Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, who unseated Ms Borwick less than a week before the fire, criticised her “shocking and repellent” comments towards constituents.

Conservative council leader Elizabeth Campbell condemned the comments as “completely wrong” and said she does not share her views.

She was quizzed about it on LBC radio today by Grenfell survivor Tiago Alves.

Ms Campbell took charge of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) after Mr Paget-Brown quit following intense criticism over the fire.

‘There’s criminal complacency about the attitude to fire’. Fire Brigades Union leader MATT WRACK talks to the Star about the Grenfell inquiry, the firefighters’ pay freeze and the changing role of technology.

What prehistoric elephants ate


This video from the USA says about itself:

8 September 2015

Gomphotherium” is an extinct genus of proboscid that evolved in the Early Miocene of North America and lived about from 13.650—3.6 Ma.

The genus emigrated into Asia, Europe and Africa after a drop in sea level allowed them to cross over. It survived into the Pliocene, and its remains have been found in France, Germany, Austria, Kansas, Tennessee, Pakistan, Kenya and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

G. productum” is known from a 35-year-old male 251 cm tall weighing 4.6 t. Even larger is “G. steinheimense“, known from a complete 37-year-old male found in Mühldorf, Germany, it is 317 cm tall weighing 6.7 t. However, it had four tusks; two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw. The lower tusks are parallel and shaped like a shovel and were probably used for digging up food from mud.

Unlike modern elephants, the upper tusks were covered by a layer of enamel. Compared to elephants, the skull was more elongated and low, indicating that the animal had a short trunk, rather like a tapir‘s. These animals probably lived in swamps or near lakes, using their tusks to dig or scrape up aquatic vegetation. In comparison to earlier proboscids, “Gomphotherium” had far fewer molars; the remaining ones had high ridges to expand their grinding surface.

From the University of Bristol in England:

Feeding habits of ancient elephants uncovered from grass fragments stuck in their teeth

May 17, 2018

A new study, led by scientists at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China, including University of Bristol PhD student Zhang Hanwen, examined the feeding habits of ancient elephant relatives that inhabited Central Asia some 17 million years ago.

Professor Wang Shiqi from IVPP, the study’s senior author, said: “We found ancient elephant teeth in the Junggar Basin, in China’s far North West and they belong to two species, Gomphotherium connexum, and the larger G. steinheimense.”

Zhang Hanwen, from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, added: “Gomphotherium was most obviously different from modern elephants by its very long lower jaw that still had lower tusks.

“It also had a shorter, more elongate, barrel-like body shape compared to modern elephants. In essence, a small elephant with short legs.”

Professor Wang explained: “Our study of their evolution shows that Gomphotherium connexum became extinct, but G. steinheimense was part of the line that eventually gave rise to the modern elephants.”

To understand if feeding preference was playing a role in survival and extinction of these elephants, Dr Wu Yan of IVPP, the study’s lead author, analysed tiny remnants of plant matter found stuck to the fossil teeth, called phytoliths.

About 30 percent of the phytoliths extracted from the teeth of G. connexum are from soft foliage, whereas another 50 percent or so comes from grasses.

Dr Wu said: “Given that foliage naturally produces far less phytoliths than grasses, this indicates that G. connexum was mainly feeding on foliage, maybe a generalist feeder of all kinds of plant matter.

“When I examined the phytoliths extracted from the cheek teeth of G. steinheimense, I saw a very different pattern — grass phytoliths comprise roughly 85 percent of the total, suggesting this species was perhaps primarily a grazer 17 million years ago.”

To confirm these results, the team also examined tiny wear patterns on the fossil tooth surfaces called microwear.

Zhang Hanwen added: “Now things start to get interesting. When our team analysed fossil pollen samples associated with the sediments where the Gomphotherium teeth were found, we realised that woodlands were rapidly transforming into semi-arid savannahs when the two species lived together.

“By adopting a much more grass-based diet, G. steinheimense was apparently responding better to this habitat change than G. connexum.

“Gomphotherium had primitive dentition consisting of low molar crowns, and numerous conical cusps arranged in few transverse enamel ridges on the chewing surface of the teeth.

“This was adapted for feeding on leaves, the primitive diet. But later on, the lineage leading to modern elephants and the extinct mammoths evolved an increased number of enamel ridges, and these eventually became densely packed tooth plates for shearing tough vegetation.

“Our new evidence shows that the diet switch from leaves to grass happened long before the anatomical switch in tooth shape.”