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Scientists from seven research institutions including the University of Oxford have used pioneering bioinformatic modelling to investigate the molecular interactions of the p53 protein known to give protection against cancers.

Scientists modelling the cancer-suppressing p53 gene identify how the 20 different molecules unique to elephants get activated for increased sensitivity and response against carcinogenic conditions – with implications for cancer treatments in humans.

The research, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, provides new insights into molecular interactions which could help people become less prone to cancer.

Cells are routinely replicated, with new cells replacing the old ones, and each new cell contains new copies of the DNA. These new cells ought to be exact copies of the older cells, but mutations do occur if proteins erroneously replicate and transcribe DNA. Most errors are immediately repaired by the cell, although the number of mutations and quality of repairs are affected by both genetic and external/living circumstances. Toxic compounds, stress, poor living conditions and ageing can all increase the rate of mutation.

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