Myotis Bats and How They Live Longer
By: Raquel Zuniga
Myotis bats have been recorded to live as long as 41 years! This has left scientists puzzled because usually the bigger the mammal the longer they live and the smaller the mammal the shorter they live. Bats are the exception to this rule and Myotis bats are the exception to the exception. Back in 2013, a group of researchers came together to study Myotis brandtii and they concluded that the answer to their longevity is within their genetic material. However, another group of researchers came together to put the previous hypothesis to the test and studied four different species of bats for their genetic material.
Once these bats were captured, 3-mm wing biopsies were taken from them before being released. Samples from the biopsies were observed at the genetic level and for each species, the researchers modeled the relationship between relative telomere length (rTL) and age using different graphs. Based on their data, the researchers concluded that Myotis bats do not have a relationship between rTL and age, debunking previous experiments.
After this revelation, a comparative analysis of their blood’s genetic material was done which proved that M. myotis doesn’t express telomerase, which means that their longevity is not from telomerase.
Instead of telomerase, this group of researchers suggest that ATM and SETX, which function to repair and prevent DNA damage, may contribute to telomere maintenance in Myotis. If telomeres are maintained by ALT mechanisms in the Myotis species, then these genes may represent excellent therapeutic targets, since cancer in bats is such a rarity.
In addition, from a human perspective, telomere maintenance in the absence of telomerase is highly desirable because telomerase expression is present in about 90% of human cancers.
The researchers experiment suggests that DNA repair genes, ATM and SETX, affecting DNA repair and telomere maintenance have contributed to the evolution of exceptional longevity in these Myotis species and represent excellent future study targets to better understand the aging process.
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