Sunday, 25 March 2012

Devil Facial Tumor Disease


Devil Facial Tumor Disease – tumor
(Murchison, E. P. et al. 2012)
    
The recent discovery of the cause of the Tasmanian Devil's growing endangerment, the Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), is thought to possibly save the diminishing species.

Scientist have genomically analysed a large number of tumors from various different devil’s throughout Tasmania, in order to understand the mutations, transmission and genome of the originating devil, the ‘immortal devil’, that lived over 16 years ago.

The cancer has been found to have metastasised throughout the devils population, as any human cancer would do in its host’s body. The disease is spread through the act of biting during mating and feeding and has lowered the total population sizes by over eighty per cent.
Spread of various strains
of the DFTD through Tasmania
(Murchison, E. P. et al. 2012)

Unlike a normal cancer, the DFTD’s cancer cells have developed transmittable adaptations and act as infectious agents. They also appear to have a mutational immunity gene, which allows them to go unrecognised when introduced to an uninfected devil, therefore spreading extremely rapidly.

A vaccine, or drugs to control the disease, appears hopeful with the new identification of the disease, the genes responsible for it and also how it manoeuvres throughout the Tasmanian Devil population.

- Samantha Finemore (42911366)

References:

Coghlan, A. 2012, ‘Immortal’ Tasmanian devil brings vaccine hope, New Scientist, viewed 15 March 2012, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21489-immortal-tasmanian-devil-brings-vaccine-hope.html.
Murchison, E. P. et al. 2012, ‘Genome Sequencing and Analysis of the Tasmanian Devil and Its Transmissible Cancer’, Cell, Vol. 148, Issue 4, pp. 780-791. http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(12)00081-5

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