While bats and humans have fictionally given us an entertaining story of immortality with vampires, one geneticist is studying bats because she believes they actually hold the key for humans to live longer, healthier lives.
Emma Teeling, a University College Dublin researcher, believes bats hold their secrets in their blood.
She’s currently studying long-lived greater mouse-eared bats to see if she can figure out why their life spans are so much greater than other animals their size, as well as what keeps them from getting sick when they contract diseases like Ebola or coronaviruses.
What draws attention to bats is how small they are, and how normally in nature animals that are smaller have shorter life spans.
Bats have evolved into having longer lifespans that have slowed down aging immensely.
Teeling focuses on bats living in rural schools and churches in Brittany, France. Aging a bat is hard, so she returns there every year when bats are born to microchip them and take a bit of wing and blood to study in her lab in Ireland.
The way that aging happens is that telomeres are attached to the end of chromosomes inside cells like a protective cap and it becomes shorter as the cells age. The cells either self destruct or remain and get old which aids in the aging process.
Bats do not age because theirs don’t shorten.
Bats are able to get better at repairing DNA as they age and fix the issues that being alive has caused, while humans do the opposite.
A bats DNA has the ability to control how their bodies and systems respond to COVID-19, where humans don’t and what kills them is the body’s immune system going into overdrive and putting them on a ventilator.
Teeling believes that if humans had the same genetic profile as bats, they would be able to do the same.
The original timeframe to complete the study was ten years, but as more people become interested it is helping to speed up the process.
FingerLakes1.com is the region’s leading all-digital news publication. The company was founded in 1998 and has been keeping residents informed for more than two decades. Have a lead? Send it to [email protected].