December 01, 2006

Vampyr Hounds: Dead Dog Cell Immortality Infects Other Dogs?

Cute Dead Dog.

And on with the story... Carl Zimmer looks at an interesting idea in biology... when can a parasitic mutation (like cancers) be considered a separate entity from its host. Or as he puts it "Can a tumor become a new form of life?".

Sticker's Sarcoma is an aleggedly transmissible tumour found in dogs. These tumours have been suggested to act more like a normal pathogen, they can be given to dogs from other dogs, by biting, licking, scratching and other transmission pathways. A similar mode of transmission has been suggested for Tasmanian Devil mouth tumours.

The weird thing is, these scientists did a genetic survey, comparing tumour cells with each other and their hosts - they found this:
"All of the tumor cells shared the same genetic marker," and that " the tumor cells [were] closely related to one another--and not closely related to the dogs in which they had been found."
Carl Zimmer calls this "Freaky". It's all sort of freaky, a little freaky-scary and a little freaky-cool.

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