Tasmanian Devils Are Adapting to Fight Debilitating Cancer

Tasmanian Devils Are Adapting to Fight Debilitating Cancer

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Tasmanian Devils-CC Malenkov in Exile

A genetic variation among some Tasmanian devil populations may be helping the endangered species shake off a fatal and contagious cancer.

The cancer has cut Tasmanian devil numbers by 80 percent.

Now, scientists writing in the journal Nature Communications believe a genetic variation present among isolated populations in Tasmania is making the species cancer-resistant.

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Researchers reported that two sections of the genome — each related to the immune system and cancer risk — were morphing quickly.

The changes occurred so fast that biologists said they were not mutations but rather adaptations that are becoming more frequent as the devils try to fight off the disease (Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, Sept. 2).

Reprinted with permission from E&E Publishing

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