21 January 2015

Balaena mysticetus on its lifespan and vitality

Photo from www.arkive.org

The bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, inhabits the arctic region and can live for more than 200 years with free or low incidence of old-age illness [1, 2, 3]. The species can reach up to 18 meters and is known to be the second heaviest whale after the blue whale [2]. Recently, scientists revealed the mystery of its long lifespan and vitality.

Mapping the bowhead whale’s genome, researchers discovered distinct genetic properties that influence DNA repair, cell growth, cell cycle, and ageing process [1, 2, 3].  Genes responsible for its immunity and metabolic processes were also discovered to be different compared to other animals [1, 2, 3].  Given the high number of cells of these animals, of over 1, 000 times than humans, bodies of bowheads are still more efficient in suppressing tumour cells because of their genetic composition [2, 3]. Scientists are now hoping that this knowledge in the genome of bowhead whales can be applied in hopes of improving human health and quality of life.

To know more about the bowhead whale, visit SeaLifeBase.
[1] Old whales-good genes. http://www.dw.de/old-whales-good-genes/a-18177578 [Accessed 20 January 2015].

[2] How to age gracefully? Ask a bowhead whale. http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150108/environment/How-to-age-gracefully-Ask-a-bowhead-whale.551047 [Accessed 20 January 2015].

[3] Genome mapped for bowhead whale, which can live 200 years. http://thespeaker.co/genome-mapped-bowhead-whale-can-live-200-years/ [Accessed 20 January 2015].

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