Bowhead whale genome sequencing and analysis

A bowhead whaleA bowhead whale (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) has not only been estimated to live over 200 years, making it the longest-lived mammal, but these animals remain disease-free until much more advanced ages than humans can. The mechanisms for the longevity and resistance to aging-related diseases of bowhead whales are unknown, but it is clear they must possess aging prevention mechanisms. In particular in context of cancer, bowhead whales must have anti-tumour mechanisms, because given their large size and longevity, their cells must have a massively lower chance of developing into cancer when compared to human cells. As such, we sequenced and analysed the genome of the bowhead whale to identify longevity assurance mechanisms.

We generated a high-coverage genome assembly of the bowhead whale, which we make available to the scientific community in our Bowhead Whale Genome Resource to encourage research using data from long-lived species. Analyses of the genome were also performed to identify promising candidate genes and mechanisms that may explain the long lifespan and resistance to age-related diseases of bowhead whales. Overall, this project provides a key resource for studying the bowhead whale and its exceptional longevity and resistance to diseases. By identifying novel maintenance and repair mechanisms we will learn what is the secret for living longer, healthier lives and may be able apply this knowledge to improve human health and preserve human life.

Our aim is for this project to be a community effort, so anyone wishing to help or collaborate in this endeavour is welcomed to contact us (see below). This project is being coordinated by Pedro Magalhães (Liverpool, UK). Other collaborators include Jeremy Semeiks & Nick Grishin (Dallas, USA), Knud Larsen & Bo Thomsen (Aarhus, Denmark), Jong Bhak (Korea), George Church (Boston, USA), Gary Stuart (Indiana State University, USA), John Patton (Purdue University, USA), John Bickham (Houston, USA), Craig George & Robert Suydam (North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, USA). Our goal is to facilitate and foster further research into long-lived animals. Any comments and suggestions are also appreciated.

Contact Information

João Pedro de Magalhães
Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group
Biosciences Building, Room 245
University of Liverpool
Crown Street, Liverpool L69 7ZB
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 151-7954517
E-mail: (# = @)