New research on the genes of a giant tortoise have revealed insights into the longevity and cancer resistant abilities of tortoises.
An international research team lead by Yale University studied the DNA of Lonesome George, the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise, who died in captivity in 2012.
The 15-year study on George and other tortoises of the Galapagos Islands area, published last month, revealed key genes associated with the species’ ability to live up to 200 years and fight cancer.
Co-author Professor Luciano Beheregaray from Flinders University in SA said the findings could translate to benefits in humans. The team found several variations in the Giant tortoise’sgenes that also exist in other vertebrate species, such as humans, who share well over 90% of the genome with tortoises.
Researcher Carlos Lopez-Otin, from the University of Oviedo in Spain, said the gene variations have not previously been linked to ageing.
“We had previously described nine hallmarks of aging, and after studying 500 genes on the basis of this classification, we found interesting variants potentially affecting six of those hallmarks in giant tortoises, opening new lines for aging research,” Lopez-Otin said.
Further studies are needed to determine if these features are indeed associated with suppressing cancer.