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Medicine Science

New Links Found Between Bacteria and Cancer 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the cleaning-up-your-cancer dept.
Shipud writes "A recent study by a group at the University of Maryland School of Medicine shows that bacterial DNA gets transferred to human cells, in a process known as lateral gene transfer, or LGT. LGT is known to occur quite commonly between bacteria, including bacteria of different species. In fact, that is how antibiotic resistance is transferred so quickly. The team has shown that certain types of tumor cells acquire bacterial DNA that may play a role in tumor progression. Another group at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has shown that gut inflammation leads to a radical change in the microbial population there, which encourages growth of E. coli that can disrupt the inflamed cells' DNA, leading to cancer. Both studies enable us to ask new questions such as: how does inflammation change the landscape for bacterial colonization? Can bacteria indeed harness inflammation — and then cancer — to flourish and remove competitors from their newly found ecosystem? And can we use this information to fight cancer?"
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New Links Found Between Bacteria and Cancer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24, 2013 @10:32AM (#44092321)

    I always knew the gays were behind cancer.... LesbianGayTransgender=LGT...... the republicans were right all along

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      its LGBT - you left out the bacon

  • At first, I thought the title was "New Linux Found Between Bacteria and Cancer".

    • That's understandable, because a distributed development model is obviously involved:

      LGT is known to occur quite commonly between bacteria, including bacteria of different species. In fact, that is how antibiotic resistance is transferred so quickly.

      But I guess that Linus still thinks he invented DVCS with e-mail patches before the bacteria did. Good luck for him that their patent on that has already expired.

      Also notice that for the bacteria people, it's all about the kernel. Or nucleus, whatever.

  • by davids-world.com (551216) on Monday June 24, 2013 @10:54AM (#44092559) Homepage
    Oh, thanks. I've just learned something. I have used resistance to antibiotics as an example of real-time observable evolution. If it is actually lateral transfer, then this example won't hold. Good to know!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The genes for resistance still have to be evolved by some bacterium. The gene transfer just helps with spreading those genes far and wide.

    • Why wouldn't the example hold? How does a lateral transfer of genes differ from a vertical transfer of genes as far as evolution is concerned?
      • Perhaps because the classic evolution model typically involves vertical transfer? But, of course, the selection process continues to work very well, so you're right from that perspective. "HGT has been shown to be an important factor in the evolution of many organisms." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer [wikipedia.org]
        • Perhaps because the classic evolution model typically involves vertical transfer?

          But, of course, the selection process continues to work very well, so you're right from that perspective.

          "HGT has been shown to be an important factor in the evolution of many organisms." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer [wikipedia.org]

          There's a lot of lateral gene transfer in humans, as well(just ask your parents, though sometimes they weren't strictly lateral at the time); bacteria just make it more obvious because gene transfer/recombination and reproduction are more or less wholly separate processes, while mammals and such combine gene transfer and reproduction into a single operation.

          • by similar_name (1164087) on Monday June 24, 2013 @11:52AM (#44093065)
            The male isn't really transferring genes laterally though. They're being combined with the females egg and falling squarely in the realm of fertilization/reproduction. With that said. There is some evidence that there is a lateral transfer of genes between the mother and baby. Male DNA has been found in the brains of mothers' of sons. My understanding is it's harder to find evidence that the sons receive genes from the mother laterally since he will already have an X chromosome from her.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              That's interesting. So maybe if a woman has children from two men, the second child may end up having some DNA from the father of the first, passed through the mother.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        In classic models of natural selection, a gene comes into existence through mutation, and then spreads widely because it is subject to natural selection. The time it takes to spread widely depends on how long a generation is for the organism, and how much of an advantage the gene confers over its alternates. Lateral transfer lets a gene spread widely regardless of how much of an advantage it confers (or doesn't). In the long run, it will be natural selection that determines if the gene really confers an adv

        • Evolution is replication with error and selection. The DNA in the bacteria is replicating and is still prone to whatever mutation rates bacterial DNA normally has. The only thing that is happening is the DNA doesn't confine itself to the organism it created. It replicates away and spreads to the organisms around it. Selection acts on that. The DNA is still under all of the rules of evolution.

          At a molecular level, DNA is a replicating molecule. It just so happens, that if you replicate something an
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday June 24, 2013 @11:12AM (#44092713) Homepage

      It's still evolution. It's change in response to the environment. LGT (Lateral Gene Transfer) is a Big Deal in the bacterial world - it evolved. You can amplify the effect by causing a selection pressure (ie, put an antibiotic in the flask). But, you can also have de novo point mutations that cause antibiotic resistance - that's done thousands, if not millions of times a day all over the planet. The clever little protists have figured out an even more efficient way to do things.

      That's certainly evolution in action.

    • Why don't you consider lateral transfer to be evolution?
    • Oh, thanks. I've just learned something. I have used resistance to antibiotics as an example of real-time observable evolution. If it is actually lateral transfer, then this example won't hold. Good to know!

      Lateral transfer is, arguably, just an example of the fact that 'evolution' isn't merely something that happens to individuals. In the case of bacteria, a novel mutation can increase in prevalence either through reproduction by the organism carrying it, or by transfer to other bacteria. Just because nothing makes a complex system more fun than adding more variables(and/or nature hates biologists), both the bacterial population and the distribution/makeup of the laterally-transferrable DNA sequences floating

    • Oh, thanks. I've just learned something. I have used resistance to antibiotics as an example of real-time observable evolution. If it is actually lateral transfer, then this example won't hold. Good to know!

      Didn't it have to evolve before it could be laterally transferred?

    • It's still evolution, right? The precise mechanism is different, but it's still a change in the organism, which is then favored by natural selection.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24, 2013 @10:55AM (#44092567)

    I don't have any proper medical education, so can someone tell me why so much of modern medicine involves controlling or preventing inflammation? It seems to cause or contribute a lot of dangerous conditions.

    What is the natural biological benefit (Why did we evolve it?) that inflammation is supposed to achieve?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Inflammation is good for the short term by letting you know something is wrong and has a protective element. Problems occur when there is too much inflammation or it lasts too long. On average, it's a good thing.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 24, 2013 @11:53AM (#44093075) Journal

      It's been a while since "Human Infectious Diseases"; but my understanding is that the inflammatory response is a component of the 'Innate immune system', a very, very, old, comparatively rudimentary; but fast-responding complement to the more recent immune system with pathogen-specific antibodies and killer T cells and things.

      The inflammation itself is partially a cause of the changes that tissues undergo to do damage control and partially serves to increase supply of particular chemicals and cell types [wikipedia.org] at the site of the issue(leading to the redness and swelling that are most obvious.

      As for it being associated with a laundry list of unpleasant diseases, I'm told that it's a combination of:

      1. Inflammation is (when it's working correctly) a stress response/damage control mechanism, that kicks in in response to certain environmental stresses and pathogens, so people who are inflamed a lot are also unpleasantly likely to be people who are being exposed to something that isn't doing them any good.

      2. Like scarring, inflammation is one of those 'unpleasant; but it beat dying for most of evolutionary history' arrangements that wreaks a lot of havoc in the process of saving you from infection or tissue damage; which was a much better trade-off before we had access to modern medicine to deal with our acute illnesses and injuries; but also wanted to live to be 90.

      3. The immune system, innate and acquired, is sort of your own personal military-industrial complex, and has a nasty tendency to sometimes go off the rails and start killing civilians in an increasingly paranoid response to minimal or nonexistent security threats, giving us autoimmune disorders.

      • by Guppy (12314) on Monday June 24, 2013 @01:41PM (#44094217)

        The immune system, innate and acquired, is sort of your own personal military-industrial complex, and has a nasty tendency to sometimes go off the rails and start killing civilians in an increasingly paranoid response to minimal or nonexistent security threats, giving us autoimmune disorders.

        Consider the evolutionary theory of pathogen Molecular Mimicry -- infectious agents that adopt motifs that resemble normal host antigens should have a selective advantage. In an absolute form, the theory is not completely accepted -- immunological cross-reactivity between host and pathogen could be due to evolution, or it could be due to chance -- and examples exist that support either case. But I think it is likely that the mechanism operates at least some situations.

        The consequence is that a somewhat over-active immune system may actually be the optimum state, with the particular degree of paranoia being the amount that best balances the trade-off between autoimmune disease risk against infection outcomes.

         

        • Oh, being the immune system is definitely a "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you" situation, because oh boy are they ever. It's just not much comfort to people who have plenty of access to antibiotics; but no longer have a functional pancreas...

    • Inflammation if not caused by micro-organizms can lead to invasion by them and when it goes through the blood stream is referred to a Sepsis.

      Sepsis is ultra-serious and life threatening. Inflammation in organs can damage internal organs.

    • by AdamHaun (43173)

      can someone tell me why so much of modern medicine involves controlling or preventing inflammation?

      I'm not a doctor either, but I can help answer this part. Inflammation hurts -- think headaches and pulled muscles. There are also a lot of chronic, painful conditions that involve inflammation, like arthritis. It's a big deal for your quality of life.

  • Can they therefore derive that people who have had to take much antibiotics throughout their lives for other conditions, statistically have less cancer?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A bio-diverse flora reduces the chance of cancer and many other issues. So no, antibiotics are bad for you in the long run, but can help you survive the short-run. You can always have a fecal transplant from someone with a good flora. It's as nasty as it sounds and it is an official medical procedure.
      • Well, nasty... it seems to work much better than all other treatments, including massively destructing and disfiguring surgery procedures. Now, getting an enema or swallowing a pill of purified bacterial matter may entice a giggle or two, but so does eating french cheese, which is just rotten milk - by the bacteria that thrives under toenails... I've been having irritable bowel for a decade, and I'm going to ask my GP about this transplant... I don't mind :)
  • It would help explain why the paleo diet is supposed to cut caner risk drastically: Without all the etra carbs there is less inflammation in the body. Food for thought :)

  • Specifically taking probiotic supplements, yogurt, etc?
  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday June 24, 2013 @12:57PM (#44093679) Journal

    bacterial DNA gets transferred to human cells, in a process known as lateral gene transfer, or LGT.

    Fox News called it... Gay marriage is going to kill us all!

  • Those aren't new questions.

  • If some, any, cancer were transmitted through bacteria , then it would produce a infectious footprint in the epidemiological record.

    Where is that footprint?

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