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Biotech Medicine Science

Cancer Resembles Life 1 Billion Years Ago 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-safe-mode dept.
An anonymous reader writes "What is cancer? It's not an invader; it's spawned from our own bodies. And it bears striking resemblance to early multicellular life from 1 billion years ago. This has led astrobiologists and cosmologists Paul Davies and Charlie Lineweaver to suggest that cancer is driven by primitive genes that govern cellular cooperation (abstract), and which kick in when our more recently evolved genes that keep them in check break down. So, far from being rogue cells that mutate out of control, cancers are actually cells that revert to a more ancient level of programming, like booting in Safe Mode. The good news is this means cancers have only finite variation. Once we figure out the ancient genes, we'll know how it works. It's unlikely to evolve any new defense mechanisms, meaning curing cancer might be not quite as mammoth a task as commonly thought."
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Cancer Resembles Life 1 Billion Years Ago

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  • giants (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Velex (120469) on Friday February 11, 2011 @10:38AM (#35173858) Homepage Journal

    It's unlikely to evolve any new defense mechanisms, meaning curing cancer might be not quite as mammoth a task as commonly thought.

    nanos gigantium humeris insidentes

  • Re:wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jouassou (1854178) on Friday February 11, 2011 @11:24AM (#35174542) Homepage
    Especially since curing cancer would allow Telomerase treatments to increase our lifespan artificially.
    From wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :
    "The enzyme telomerase allows for replacement of short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which are otherwise shortened when a cell divides via mitosis. "In normal circumstances, without the presence of telomerase, if a cell divides recursively, at some point all the progeny will reach their Hayflick limit.[13] With the presence of telomerase, each dividing cell can replace the lost bit of DNA, and any single cell can then divide unbounded. While this unbounded growth property has excited many researchers, caution is warranted in exploiting this property, as exactly this same unbounded growth is a crucial step in enabling cancerous growth."
  • Re:wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday February 11, 2011 @12:12PM (#35175364) Homepage Journal
    It's called the duplicates paradox [benbest.com] or sometimes the transporter paradox. If you get duplicated and then the original is destroyed, there isn't a continuity of consciousness. You seem to have completely missed this in order to make your point about biological renewal.
  • Re:wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2011 @12:44PM (#35175862)

    What you point out is a challenge of logic for human cognition but it doesn't negate the fact that we are humans and this is the way our cognition works.

    I think it's time for a car analogy. If you replace parts of your car over the years, one by one, most of us would insist it's still the same car. If you go out tomorrow and buy another car of the same year, model, colour, etc, is it the same car? Most of us would say not. There is something within us that reacts this way to replacement. You might not like it but it's a fact that humans think this way.

    If you prefer a computer analogy, essentially everything that makes your computer unique, as far as is easily identifiable, rests on the hard drive. If you buy an identical computer and copy the information on the hard drive from your old one, has the computer been replaced or not? I think you'd try to stretch this, perhaps for didactic purpose, to get us to say it has not but I also think that any human would say that it has been.

    To me, far more interesting is the case of copying that destroys the original. Think of the transporter in Star Trek. The original disappears from the pad and the information contained is used to recreate the subject remotely from other matter. Essentially, every atom of the individual has been replaced but we think of it as the same person. If the original was not destroyed in the copying process, though, I guarantee that we would think of the one standing on the planet as a copy.

    It's all about context, isn't it? We may pride ourselves on being logical but, for certain things, logic does not drive our perception. It would be better to realise this and remain vigilant for its operation than to rail against it and cry, "I would it were not so."

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