Cancer-Causing “Jumping Genes”

University of Adelaide researchers believe that cancer-causing genes may have stemmed from plants and just jumped into humans.

Based on the new data, an essential element called L1 or LINE-1 infiltrated humans approximately 150 million years ago.

Scientists suggest that this transposable element is responsible for several accelerated changes seen in human evolution.

In the absence of this element, there will no longer be critical genetic mutations which cause various deadly cancers for humans.

Since L1 has been present in the human genome for a long period of time, it’s difficult to detect how it “jumped” from one species to another.

The research team believes that it may have sprung in extinct species, plants or insects.

However, they can confirm that L1 didn’t come from mammals since it is absent in monotremes, a primary group of mammals, like echidna and platypus.

According to Professor David Adelson, who led the study, the impact of jumping genes changed the understanding of human evolution as an entirely parent-offspring process.

“We think the entry of L1s into the mammalian genome was a key driver of the rapid evolution of mammals over the past 100 million years,” he said.

“Jumping genes copy and paste themselves around genomes and in genomes of other species.

“How they do this is not yet known, although insects like ticks or mosquitoes or possibly viruses may be involved.

“It’s still a big puzzle.”

When doctors understand the exact genetic characteristic of a cancer, it allows them to better predict an individual’s chances of having cancer.

This will help people to take precautionary measures like mastectomies.

It can also offer more range for the modification of medicine to help patients fight cancer.

This is the world’s largest analysis of “jumping genes” or retrotransposons.

The study looked into the genetic blueprints of more than 750 species. It is now published in the Genome Biology journal.

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