Why Bats Don't Get Sick or Get Cancer

Despite being the carriers of the deadliest diseases known to humans like ebola, SARS, MERS, and even some precursor of COVID-19, bats rarely get sick or even get cancer. This has become the subject of increased research interest for scientists, as bats may hold the key to how we can combat pandemics and possibly how to treat deadly human diseases as well as slow aging.

One of the reasons why bats are impervious to deadly diseases, despite being hosts to them, may have something to do with their physiology and how they evolved. The fact that they are the only mammals that can fly may give us a hint to their extreme capabilities. Not only that, bats have long lifespans compared to other mammals, with some estimates going up as high as 200 years in human equivalents.

Scientists have now begun to receive heavy funding to research bats. From sequencing their genomes to studying their immune systems, many researchers have turned to bat biology for possible answers to pandemics, and possibly cancer although many say it will still be a long time before a cure for cancer or COVID-19 can be found in bats.

Although still in its infancy, research into bat biology has had a breakthrough when Dr. Thomas Zwaka, a stem cell researcher was able to turn bat tissue into pluripotent stem cells, which means they are capable of transforming into other kinds of cells.

(Video credit: Vox)

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How bats carry deadly diseases without dying. Ok. Some. Bats rarely get sick? Uhh.. No. No in a big way. There's this disease called White Nose Syndrome that over the past several years has wiped out close to 90% of the brown bat population in the Northeast. It can kill up to 100% of a colony in hibernation. I had a nice little colony in a small patch of woods next to my house. Summer nights at sunset was great to sit on the porch and watch them come out. They'd fly all around the house taking out mosquitoes. That ended a long time ago.
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