Bats possess the extraordinary ability to tolerate and survive viruses that cause even lethal diseases in humans. Understanding the secret could enable us to live long and healthy lives.
We have always wondered what this attitude was due to, and today, thanks to a study conducted by a team of researchers from University College Dublin and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (United States), we have some very surprising answers.
Echo localization, ability to fly, and an evolved immune system
Fascinating and mysterious, bats are mammals capable of flight due to the modification of hand and arm structure that support the patagium.
The patagium is a thin elastic skin membrane stretched between the fore and hind limbs that allows bats to hover.
And again, the primary sense of bats is not sight but echo leasing.
Echo leasing is a highly sophisticated system of high-frequency emission and bouncing that enables bats to calculate with a delay of just a microsecond the distances, size, and shape of objects and living things around them.
But it is the immune system of bats that further surprises us: bats are extremely long-lived, have a very low incidence of cancer, and do not get sick even when infected with deadly viruses.
This all happens because of the adaptive capacity of their immune system.
Bat stem cells and virus resistance
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells capable, that is, of transforming into cells of different tissues or organs.
Researchers examined bat stem cells and found that they contain traces of viral genetic material but also active viruses that, however, do not affect the body.
The traces of viral genetic material are a prodigious immunological genetic memory.
This “memory” instructs the stem cells and prepares them, once mature and specialized, to recognize viruses even before they replicate or when they mutate in an attempt to evade the immune system.
In addition, bats always maintain high levels of interferon, a protein substance that attenuates virus replication.
So, the immune system of bats is able to get rid of viruses, pathogens, and damaged cells even before infection occurs.
Bats have armored their immunological system: how to imitate them
Understanding how bats have managed to make their immune systems almost invincible explains why they live so long and without getting sick.
Their cells’ mechanisms of genetic self-reprogramming pave the way for molecular biology in the deepening and refinement of gene editing.
consists of DNA manipulation to correct the genome selectively i.e., only where needed and only for the prevention and treatment of cancer, neurological diseases, and viral infections.
The hope is to one day extend the life expectancy of living organisms and greatly limit the incidence of painful, debilitating, and deadly diseases.
Let’s protect our bat friends
The disastrous alterations that humans are causing to the environment are causing a drastic reduction in bat populations.
Pesticides poison the insects they feed on, logging deprives them of shelter, and cave tourism disturbs and damages their habitat.
Their survival depends on us, and we must protect them not only because they possess the secret of longevity that can be so convenient for us.
Every nonhuman individual is precious and delicate, and the protection of biodiversity, even in small daily actions, means supporting life in all its forms, including human beings.
And if you happen to rescue a bat in distress, store it safely in a cardboard box, take no action and contact us immediately-we will explain what to do.
We would like to remind you in this regard that Clinica La Veterinaria is always open h24 every day including holidays and with First Aid service from 8 pm to 8 am.