According to an international study lead by Chinese researchers and published in the journal Science , a system of cancer-related genes allow deer to grow a new set of antlers every year, but the animals rarely die of cancer thanks to other tumor-suppressing genes in the body that keep the aggressive cells in check.
An antler is a complex organ of bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscle and velvet. “Deer can completely regenerate (this) organ. No other mammal has that ability,” said Wang Wen, the study’s lead author.
The researchers also noted that while deer might get tumors all over their body, the growths do almost no harm and disappear with time.
This jibes with what we have posted on BIG DEER blog about tumors and growths on whitetails here in the States. Unless growths occur on the face an restrict breathing and/or vision, scientists say they are rarely fatal.
The study says that some 19 genes work together in a deer’s body to allow antler cells to thrive without developing into cancer in other parts of animal’s body.
In a commentary article in the same issue of Science, Stanford University researchers said the discovery could help scientists develop new drugs to battle cancer. They also noted that the new findings related to antlers could help with tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in humans.