The Tasmanian devil's cancer

A week or so ago, Ann Maree Pearce, a government cytogeneticist from Australia's island state, Tasmania, and colleagues said in a Nature news report that a nasty facial cancer affecting the Tasmanian devil population, dubbed Devil Facial Tumour Disease, was in fact an infective cell line being passed between the ferocious, foxed-sized scavengers via bites and so on. At the linkurl:18th Lorne Cancer Conference Erskine on the Beach;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23110/ in Lorne, Austra

By | February 11, 2006

A week or so ago, Ann Maree Pearce, a government cytogeneticist from Australia's island state, Tasmania, and colleagues said in a Nature news report that a nasty facial cancer affecting the Tasmanian devil population, dubbed Devil Facial Tumour Disease, was in fact an infective cell line being passed between the ferocious, foxed-sized scavengers via bites and so on. At the linkurl:18th Lorne Cancer Conference Erskine on the Beach;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23110/ in Lorne, Australia, Pearce explained how she had initially tried performing a chromosomal analysis of samples taken from numerous devils across the island in the hope of spotting a common breakpoint. She found to her surprise that they were identical in every case, regardless of whether the host animal was male or female. It was only when they came across Errol (named in honor of the famous Tasmanian actor Errol Flynn) a devil with a pericentric inversion on chromosome 5, that the penny dropped. The inverted 5 was not present in the facial growth, Pearce explained. 'So Errol's cancer had to come from someone else.' The tumour is fatal and spreading fast in the Tasmanian devil population, she said, thanks to their endless fighting and 'rough foreplay.' The hope is that a vaccine can be developed before the population dwindles any further.

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