Bats are the only mammals that are able to fly and they make up almost one quarter of

all mammal species on earth. These amazing creatures are free from most diseases and

live exceptionally longer when compared to other mammals of similar size. Scientists

recently analyzed the DNA sequences of two different bat species, the Black Flying Fox

and the David’s Myotis, to get an insight into the disease-resistance and longevity of bats.

Bats are known to carry many deadly viruses including Ebola and SARS, but interestingly

they never develop diseases from these viruses. Analysis of DNA sequences of two distant

bat species revealed that bats were missing cytokine storm genes that trigger extreme

and fatal immune reactions to some infections in other organisms. Cytokine storms are

often triggered by the host’s immune system in response to certain infections and they

end up not only killing the infecting viruses but also the organism’s own cells. Since

bats don’t have the cytokine storm mechanism, they seem to handle many infections

or diseases more rapidly and efficiently with a depressed inflammation response.

These findings might help researchers to design more effective drugs for various

human infections by focusing on the minimization of the inflammation. Moreover,

bats are capable of sustained long flights, as some bat species can fly more than

1,000 km in a single night. With such intense physical activity, cells often produce

high levels of toxic (free radicals) that would usually damage DNA sequence. This

study also found that bats are equipped with a highly functional set of genes that

mediates DNA repair in response to DNA damage, thus bats are protected from

toxic cellular waste with this advanced mechanism. Aging, cancer and infectious

diseases are the three major issues medicine is facing today and biological

abilities granted to bats seem to provide important clues for us to discover new

ways to combat these big health problems

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