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An Old Case of Cancer

A bone from a hominin ancestor who lived some 1.8 million to 1.6 million years ago shows signs of cancer, NPR reports. This, it adds, is the oldest known instance of the disease within a hominin ancestor.

Researchers from University of the Witwatersrand report in the South African Journal of Science that advances in three-dimensional imaging enabled them to uncover a malignant osteosarcoma in a foot bone that was first uncovered in Swartkrans cave — part of Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site — between 1960 and 1980. They write that the mass has "an irregular spongy woven bone texture with a cauliflower-like external appearance."

NPR notes that a doctoral student had noticed the tumor earlier, but thought it was a benign osteoid osteoma. With a new high-resolution X-ray technique, though, the Wits researchers have now come to a different conclusion.

"[W]hilst the upsurge in malignancy incidence is correlated with modern lifestyles, there is no reason to suspect that primary bone tumors would have been any less frequent in ancient specimens," the Wits researchers write. "Such tumors are not related to lifestyle and often occur in younger individuals. As such, malignancy has a considerable antiquity in the fossil record, as evidenced by this specimen. "

NPR adds that while this is the oldest instance of a malignant tumor in a human ancestor, tumors have also been found in the bones of dinosaurs.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.