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Rapid evolution may have helped bats avoid cancer, study finds
The researchers sequenced the genomes of the Jamaican fruit bat (pictured) and the Mesoamerican mustached bat.

It may also help them tolerate viruses.

A study has suggested that rapid evolution may be the reason why bats are able to avoid cancer, and also tolerate viral infections like SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers aimed to investigate bats’ low cancer rates and robust immune system, with the theory that it may have implications for human health. For example, performing comparative genomic analysis of bats against mammals that are susceptible to cancer may lead to new discoveries on the causes of cancer, and its links with immunity.

It could also further our understanding of why bats are tolerant to zoonotic viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, before they get passed onto humans. This could lead to work that may better prevent disease outbreaks from animals to people.

The investigation involved the researchers using the Oxford Nanopores Technologies long-read platform to sequence the genomes of two bat species, the Jamaican fruit bat and the Mesoamerican mustached bat, which have key evolutionary positions.

They then conducted a comparative genomic analysis with a diverse collection of bats and other mammals.

This found genetic adaptations in six DNA repair-related proteins and 46 proteins in bats that were cancer-related. It revealed that these altered cancer-related genes were twice as enriched in the bats compared to other mammals.

The analysis identified antiviral genes that showed evidence of rapid evolution. There were also positive selection signs in 33 tumour suppressors and 6 DNA-repair genes which may contribute to bats’ increased longevity and reduced cancer rates.

This shows that the immune systems of bats rely on bat-wide and lineage-specific evolution among their genes, which suggests diverse immune strategies.

Armin Scheben, the lead author, said: “By generating these new bat genomes and comparing them to other mammals we continue to find extraordinary new adaptations in antiviral and anticancer genes,

“These investigations are the first step towards translating research on the unique biology of bats into insights relevant to understanding and treating aging and diseases, such as cancer, in humans.”

The full study can be found in the Genome Biology and Evolution journal.

Image © Shutterstock

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Bristol uni celebrates 75 years of teaching vets

News Story 1
 The University of Bristol's veterinary school is celebrating 75 years of educating veterinary students.

Since the first group of students were admitted in October 1949, the school has seen more than 5,000 veterinary students graduate.

Professor Jeremy Tavare, pro vice-chancellor and executive dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, said: "I'm delighted to be celebrating Bristol Veterinary School's 75 years.

"Its excellence in teaching and research has resulted in greater understanding and some real-world changes benefiting the health and welfare of both animals and humans, which is testament to the school's remarkable staff, students and graduates." 

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News Shorts
RCVS HQ to temporarily relocate

The headquarters of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is to move temporarily, ahead of its permanent relocation later in the year.

From Monday, 26 February 2024, RCVS' temporary headquarters will be at 2 Waterhouse Square, Holborn, London. This is within walking distance of its current rented offices at The Cursitor, Chancery Lane.

RCVS have been based at The Cursitor since February 2022, following the sale of its Westminster premises the previous March.

However, unforeseen circumstances relating to workspace rental company WeWork filing for bankruptcy means The Cursitor will no longer operate as a WeWork space. The new temporary location is still owned by WeWork.

RCVS anticipates that it will move into its permanent location at Hardwick Street, Clerkenwell, later on in the year.