Cancer is a disease that starts in the cells. During cell division, some cells divide and grow uncontrollably due to mutations. “You would think large animals, which have more cells, would have a greater probability of developing cancer, but this is not what happens,” said Juan Opazo, PhD in biological sciences and director of the Doctoral Program in Sciences with a specialization in Ecology and Evolution at Universidad Austral.
This paradox is addressed by the doctoral thesis of biologist Daniela Tejada Martínez, a student in the program. Tejada, with the help of Opazo and microbiologist Joáo Pedro de Magalháes of the Integrative Genomics of Aging Group at the University of Liverpool, analyzed 1,077 Tumor Suppressor Genes or TSGs in the genomes of 15 mammalian species, including seven cetaceans. This group is interesting because it includes whales, the largest and longest-lived animals.