The fast growing antlers found on deer and other animals are a result of a very unique set of genes.
In humans oncogenes are genes which result in quickly dividing cancer cells. Those same genes are responsible for explosive antler growth in deer. As a part of this unique adaptation deer also have an number of cancer suppressing genes to keep the antler growth process from going out of control. The researchers identified another 19 genes that act as tumor suppressors, stopping the antler growth going out of control. In fact, these cancer suppressing genes mean that deer develop cancer at a 5x lower rate than other non-antlered mammals.
Deer can grow almost 4.5″ of antler a week making their antlers some of the fastest growing tissue on earth. Scientists are studying their antler growing process to try to come up with cures for human ailments. Researchers believe that insights gained from antler growth studies could one day lead to a cure for some types of human cancer. Some researchers are even studying antler growth in the hopes of developing a way for humans to regrow limbs!
These results show the critical role genetics play in antler growth; that’s something hunters are very familiar with.