Science Human drugs could help cure the transmissible cancer that is wiping out Tasmanian devils

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  1. tom_mai78101

    tom_mai78101 The Helper Connoisseur / Ex-MineCraft Host Staff Member

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    Tasmanian devils are unique little critters—they are the largest carnivorous marsupials and only found on the Australian island of Tasmania. And no, they do not look anything like the Looney Tunes character. Unfortunately, they are being wiped out by atransmissible face cancer. Researchers have found clues as to how this cancer arose and have discovered a potential cure that they have published in Cancer Cell.

    There are only six other cases of transmissible cancers on record, one in dogs and five in shellfish. Despite their rarity in other animals, two separate transmissible cancers are afflicting the Tasmanian devils currently. The cancer is spread when the devils bite each other’s faces, which is a rather normal fighting behavior for them. Live cancer cells can pass to a new individual and cause large, disfiguring facial tumors that usually result in death.

    The first case of the cancer in Tasmanian devils was discovered in 1996 in the northeast part of the island. It came from a mutation in one individual and spread to others. The DNA of the cancer cells belongs to this first affected devil. Now, the cancer has spread across the whole island. In 2014, a second transmissible cancer was found in the devils on the southeast of the island. They both look about the same, but genetic analyses revealed that the first cancer came from a female Tasmanian devil’s cells originally, while the second came from a male. Part of the reason why this cancer is so dangerous for them is that their immune systems don’t recognize it as being foreign and a threat to them.

    Read more here. (ZME Science)

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