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DNA's guardian gene found in placozoans

A vital gene that defends us against cancer has been found in one of the simplest of animals ā€“ a flat, amoeba-like creature called a placozoan. The discovery shows that p53, sometimes described as the "guardian of the genome", has been around for over 1 billion years.

The Placozoa are among the most primitive of animals. Their millimetre-long bodies are just three cells thick and have no muscles, nervous systems or organs. They even lack an obvious front or back end. Yet placozoans have a version of p53, also known as TP53, that is strikingly similar to ours, says David Lane, chief scientist at Cancer Research UK.

Lane first discovered p53 in 1984. In humans, the protein it codes for, p53, detects damaged DNA that could trigger cancers. It stops the growth of cells containing damaged DNA by encouraging them to self destruct or by recruiting other proteins to repair the damage.
 
 

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