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Bats may help fight inflammatory conditions and ageing, according to a study.

A new study may have found a way to slow down the ageing process and treat illnesses like COVID-19, arthritis, and heart disease that are caused by inflammation.

The study showed that this might happen because bats carry a protein.

According to the most recent study, bats live longer than most small mammals, as they can live up to 40 years. They can also live with viruses that kill people, such as SARS, Ebola, and Zika, without getting sick.

Scientists have found a modern version of a protein called bat ASC2. This protein stops inflammatory reactions in bats, which could be a good way to explain why they are so tough.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) showed an extremely structured shape. — Reuters/File
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) showed an extremely structured shape. — Reuters/File
The study was reported in the journal Cell. It said, “When laboratory mice were genetically modified to carry the protein, the resulting “bat-mouse chimaera” showed the same inflammatory defences as bats.”

The same thing happened when tests were done on human cells.

In the study, the team from Singapore and China wrote, “Our results show an important way that bats limit excessive inflammation caused by viruses and stress, which may help explain why they live so long.”

The team also said, “When the bat ASC2, which is only slightly different from ours, was tested on human cells, they too got stronger, showing that it could be used as a therapy.”

“The findings give us new ways to fight ageing and diseases that cause inflammation in humans,” they said.

A picture of the human body that shows the heart, spine, and how to take a person’s pulse. — File/Unsplash
A picture of the human body that shows the heart, spine, and how to take a person’s pulse. — File/Unsplash
When asked if bat ASC2 could help humans live longer and die less often from viruses, Dr. Linfa Wang, who led the study and is a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School, told Telegraph, “Yes. It may not be the only factor, because biology is never as easy as one molecule or one pathway. But the general reduction of inflammation probably has something to do with how well bats age.

In 2005, Dr. Wang helped prove that bats were the natural source of Sars viruses. He also said, “The new research could eventually lead to medicines for humans that “mimic ASC2,” which could be used to treat a number of viruses that cause an inflammatory response.”

“Based on this work, we have filed for patents and are looking into business relationships for drug discovery. We hope to make a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs for diseases in people that are caused by inflammasomes,” said Dr. Wang.

According to the results, the death rate from a deadly flu virus went down from 100% to 50% in people with the ASC2 adaption. The Zika virus in the bat mice was also “substantially inhibited” by the protein.

“It’s very exciting to see ASC2 in the long-lived mole-rat as well,” said Dr. Wang. “But we still don’t know what the key stress was in mole-rats that caused the “convergence” evolution we see in bats.”

Prof Stuart Neil, a professor of virology at King’s College London who was not involved in the work, said that it is important to find out “if there are special features of the bat immune system that allow them to tolerate infection with so many seemingly nasty viruses.”

But he also said that more study is needed to be sure that ASC2 is the reason bats live so long, which will be hard to figure out.

“However, figuring out how bat ASC2 shuts down inflammation could make it possible to make more targeted treatments for diseases with prolonged inflammation. “No one can say for sure if this kind of knowledge will help people live longer in general,” he said.

Professor Gilda Tachedjian, head of Life Sciences at Australia’s Burnet Institute, said, “They show proof of concept that bat ASC2 protein can target the inflammasome and reduce inflammation markers in vitro [in cell culture] and in a transgenic mouse model.”

“The results of this study are interesting, but more work needs to be done to turn them into new therapies that can help people live longer or be less likely to die from viruses.”