oh deer
July 1, 2019 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Deer antlers are a 'controlled' form of bone cancer growth - "Deer can completely regenerate an organ. No other mammal has that ability." (Science! ;)

also btw...
posted by kliuless (22 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
For reference, the LD50 (dose which kills about 50% of the population) for gamma irradiation is about 4.5 Gray. So yeah, we won't be sending astronauts to Mars until we can build great honking shields. The mold will be fine though I guess.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:02 AM on July 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

And then the antlers just fall off.

What a relief that must be.
posted by jamjam at 12:17 AM on July 2, 2019 [10 favorites]

So, the forest spirit in mononoke is real?
posted by eustatic at 1:19 AM on July 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Qiu says that the cancer-suppressing genes also protect against the disease in general. Documented cancer rates in deer are five times less than other mammals. [...] Wang's team found nine genes involved with this antler cell growth. There was an additional 19 genes that act as tumor suppressors.

That's interesting. If people in the future are walking around with a lot less cancer, even if we all have a nice rack of antlers as a side effect, I'd say that's fine.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on July 2, 2019 [25 favorites]

From the second link: In a way, the Chernobyl disaster reveals the true extent of our environmental impact on the planet. Harmful as it was, the nuclear accident was far less destructive to the local ecosystem than we were. In driving ourselves away from the area, we have created space for nature to return
posted by mumimor at 3:54 AM on July 2, 2019 [20 favorites]

Deer antler growth involves cancer genes because we call things cancer genes if they're part of the cellular proliferation pathway, and we call things tumor suppressing genes if they're part of the cell growth control pathway. Cancer just is uncontrolled cell proliferation, often accompanied by pathological cells that don't function correctly.

I'm more curious about which growth pathway it is; I guess it's probably going to involve the Bone Morphogenetic proteins, but the seasonality aspect seems like it might involve other stuff. Like, what triggers the cells to know it's time to make antlers?

The fact that deer have lower cancer rates than other mammals is interesting, but I've seen that reported about other animals, too, like sharks, and it turned out to not actually be true, so I'll need to read the paper and check the references on that.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:17 AM on July 2, 2019 [27 favorites]

That just raises more questions about Ray Lewis's deer antler spray.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:56 AM on July 2, 2019

If people in the future are walking around with a lot less cancer, even if we all have a nice rack of antlers as a side effect, I'd say that's fine.

Fine, nothing, it would be freaking awesome.
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 AM on July 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

Imagine a crowded subway ride...
posted by DesbaratsDays at 7:49 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Imagine rutting season.
posted by sudogeek at 7:51 AM on July 2, 2019 [10 favorites]

And sometimes deer antlers are NOT a 'controlled' form of bone cancer growth.
posted by zakur at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

"Yowza! Nice rack, babe! --Aaughhh" (is gored by 12-point vengeance)
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 8:16 AM on July 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is pretty interesting, but I'm curious about the claim that no other mammal has the ability to completely regenerate an organ.
I'm not a scientist and make no great claims to medical expertise, but when my wife was pregnant I really nerded out on the related science from my novice perspective. I was told then that the placenta is a wholly new organ that is generated for each pregnancy, discharged at birth and regrown as necessary for subsequent births. Again, this is not really my expertise but I always thought that concept was so cool and it seems at odds with that broad claim above.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:20 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The ISS has a iron ion source they can point at the walls? I'm now very curious what experiment that equipment was designed for.

This is neat.
posted by eotvos at 8:29 AM on July 2, 2019

On reflection, I guess they probably just scraped a wall sample into a target. But, I'm still curious why they have an ion source inside the ISS.
posted by eotvos at 8:31 AM on July 2, 2019

Staccato, isn't the placenta part of the baby and not the mother? It shares a circulatory system with the baby so I can't see how it would be an "organ" of the mother.

That said, I've always heard that the human liver can fully regenerate. So that antler claim still seems suspicious to me.
posted by Arandia at 9:22 AM on July 2, 2019

There are actually two components of a placenta - the fetal component and the maternal component. I believe both are expelled after birth.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

OK, but can it stop teenage deer from developing cell phone horns?
posted by senor biggles at 9:38 AM on July 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

See also: jackalopes and wolpertingers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:09 AM on July 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Qiu and the research team found that genes responsible for bone formation and embryonic tissue development in the neural crest likely spearheaded the development of bony headgear for ruminants.

How pleased with themselves must the author have been?
posted by TheCoug at 5:52 PM on July 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oblig. It's not a toomah!
posted by zaixfeep at 5:57 AM on July 3, 2019

You've mentioned jackalopes before, HalloweenJack, but it's especially interesting to bring them up here because rabbits also fight, and I assume that video is a mating/territory fight, (and it has a very interesting behavior in it I've never noticed before which I'll get back to), and they fight mainly by rearing up and whapping each other in the face with their front paws. In the video, note that the rabbit that lands the most blows wins.

The 'horns' of the jackalope are actually cancerous growths caused by a papilloma virus which usually appear on the face and head, and though they are not nearly as effective or efficient as the antlers of a deer, I would bet they confer a defensive advantage in those mating or territory battles often enough to be selected for despite the fact that they can be fatal because they can interfere with eating or metastasize.

And now that I'm thinking about it, I'd guess the same thing is true of the transmissible facial cancer which afflicts Tasmanian Devils, because a second unrelated transmissible facial cancer was discovered among Tasmanian Devils not that long ago — and that's just too much of a coincidence.

(the rabbit behavior in the video I thought was interesting was that the rabbit which won and was chasing the loser from the field had its ears down, but the ears of the loser were fully erect, and it seems clear the loser was hearing exactly where the pursuer was moment by moment and what it was doing, and I'd guess listening to pursuers was a big driver of the evolution of those extravagant ears).

But getting back to deer and jackalopes, I'd really like to know how deer deal with papilloma viruses – quite well, I'd imagine.
posted by jamjam at 7:00 PM on July 3, 2019

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