Show us the secret of long life, mysterious George
The key to a long and healthy life could be found in world famous giant tortoise, Lonesome George, whose genome has been sequenced by an international team including researchers from Flinders University.
Researchers set out to sequence the genome of Lonesome George, the last member of the Galapagos giant tortoise species from Pinta Island, in an effort to understand the species' ability to live up to 200 years and fight cancer.
George died in 2012, aged about 101-102.
The researchers also sequenced the genome of a giant tortoise from the island of Aldabra in the Seychelles and compared both genomes with those of other species, including humans.
The team directly analysed more than 3000 genes thought to be potentially involved in cancer and ageing and identified several variants in the tortoise genomes that potentially affect six of the nine hallmarks of ageing.
None of these gene variants have been previously associated with the ageing process, so this breakthrough opens fresh research avenues which could lead to an improved understanding of the tortoises' longevity.
They also found that giant tortoises have several expanded tumour suppressor genes, as well as alterations in two genes which are known to contribute to cancer.
Further studies are needed to determine if these features are indeed associated with suppressing cancer.
The research is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.