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← Molecular quagmire - cancer just got more complicated

Molecular quagmire - cancer just got more complicated - Comments

Sample's Avatar Comment 1 by Sample

It was a pleasure to read this article. That it was published in a newspaper, ostensibly for a lay audience, gives me hope that scientific topics can indeed be written in an interesting yet rigorously informing way.

Thanks.

Mike

Thu, 18 Aug 2011 17:26:28 UTC | #862252

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

Just keeping up with all the new types of RNA could give you a headache. Genomic interactions with our " fellow travelers ' of the microbial world? That will take some large head wrapping around!

Thu, 18 Aug 2011 20:44:34 UTC | #862321

Misfire's Avatar Comment 3 by Misfire

Looked generally discouraging, but I also wonder how much added opportunity this might give us. Sometimes you don't need to understand how an ecosystem works if all you want is to find edible berries. Do tumors tend to have natural enemies among our microbes? Could pills containing nothing but large doses of our own anti-tumor microbes be a reality?

How many organisms will we be able to engineer to fight against specific tumors?

I could also imagine something like playing the Afghanistan trick against a Soviet Union of a tumor--we didn't have to understand much of anything about Afghanistan to know that the Soviets would get mired there. Similarly, we might not need to understand the full complexity of some of these interactions in order to sap a tumor's potential.

I'm not a scientist, clearly, but I've always been fascinated by the solutions scientists develop.

Fri, 19 Aug 2011 16:01:14 UTC | #862502

ThePoeticAtheist's Avatar Comment 4 by ThePoeticAtheist

Misfire, yeah, I can understand where you're coming from. I'm not a scientist (yet) either, so my initial reaction to the story was downward, visceral lurch. But scientists really are a lot more on top of this stuff than you and I could really grasp with our limited understanding. However, I would encourage you to maybe read into 'The Hallmarks of Cancer' by Doctors Hanahan and Weinberg. I am currently reading them slowly (researching terms and concepts that I don't understand). The links are available in the article as the two papers are referenced in it. It's been an enlightening read so far.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 04:59:14 UTC | #862906

Misfire's Avatar Comment 5 by Misfire

@ ThePoeticAtheist

Thanks, I may check it out next. Another excellent read, which I'm on right now, is The Emperor of All Maladies. It deserves the press it's been receiving--very well written and a good mix of science and personal stories.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 17:08:16 UTC | #863006

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 6 by Vicktor

Comment 3 by Misfire

It's not uncommon for scientists to spend years (or decades) looking for a solution in the wrong places.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 12:52:54 UTC | #863187

raytoman's Avatar Comment 7 by raytoman

My understanding of the Big Picture of the Human is that we are a colony of organisms and host others.

Our intestine is effectively a simple worm which extracts nutrients and has been incorporated into our overall gastro intestinal system. Our brain and nervous system controls the colony. Our heart and blood circulation system supports the colony and distributes oxygen and food. Our lungs provide oxygen to the colony. Our kidneys and liver extract and process and expel nutrients, etc

We host bacteria in our digestive system to break down the contents. We can have all sorts of internal parasites, most causing harm and of course external parasites, many specific just to out species.

Our colony has evolved and obviously started from the time multicellular organisms evolved. Our brain reflects the complexity of our current colony and has adapted over time to ensure our survival.

I suspect we can identify whole DNA sequences that reflect the individual members of our colony and we still have genes that are no longer required as our colony integrates better, drops surplus genes and evolves others.

It is no surprise that we have lots of junk DNA. I suspect that some of it could be used to regenerate some of our constituent colony members such that they could live indepenently or we could cross match some to improve current function. Genetic engineering surely relies on splicing genes to alter characteristics. We can also do this across species, we share similar colonies, thats why our DNA is so close to that of other aniimals, that worm is everywhere.

Tue, 23 Aug 2011 22:07:47 UTC | #863539

ThePoeticAtheist's Avatar Comment 8 by ThePoeticAtheist

@Misfire, The Emperor of All Maladies sounds familiar...I should check it out :) Thanks!

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 03:29:15 UTC | #863615

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 9 by DavidMcC

Comment 7 by raytoman

Our intestine is effectively a simple worm which extracts nutrients and has been incorporated into our overall gastro intestinal system.

I wouldn't take that particular item on your list too literally, raytoman. If it was true, the DNA in the cells making up our gut walls would be completely different from that of the rest of our body. We did not capture a worm and user it for digestion, nor did any worm volunteer!

Thu, 25 Aug 2011 08:33:18 UTC | #864048

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 10 by DavidMcC

Comment 7 by raytoman

It is no surprise that we have lots of junk DNA. I suspect that some of it could be used to regenerate some of our constituent colony members such that they could live indepenently or we could cross match some to improve current function.

No, most junk DNA is only called that precisely because it does not code for anything, and that includes bacteria! Most of the so-called junk is the "packaging" chromatin that is necessary in a multicellular species to help suppress dangerous "unwanted" expression of the "wrong" genes in any given cell type. For example, the last thing you want in muscle cells is bone, even though the two cell types are related, and there is a (very rare) condition in which muscle turns to bone, due to "incorrect" gene expression.

Thu, 25 Aug 2011 08:42:29 UTC | #864052

raytoman's Avatar Comment 11 by raytoman

Our earliest ancestor was a worm and we have simply evolved around it. The first life that crawled out of the sea already had the worm incorporated as it's intestine.

Multi cellular life started by combinarion, symbiosis, collaroration, etc in the sea, initially below 30 metres, except at night. Otherwise UV light destroyed it. Blue Green algae took about a billion years to provide sufficent protection (O3) to enable the move to land about 550-500 million years ago.

Or do I read the wrong books, or misunderstand them?

I also understand that life needed a light sensitive area to enable them to detect the light and duck back under for cover. Led to eyes.

Anyway, I may be pretty dumb but you only need to be able to read, read non fiction and voila, you can become a rational, sceptical, humanist, atheist.

Fri, 26 Aug 2011 01:48:53 UTC | #864332

DaveyJones's Avatar Comment 12 by DaveyJones

the idea of 'junk DNA' has always seemed like the most arrogant assumption of scientists ever. what it really states is that: 'we do not understand it, therefore it must not have any function'.

this is the kinda thing that happens when we refuse to accept our ignorance.

as for cancer, i have to wonder: has science ever looked at what is omitted from our lives, as opposed to what is added? cuz i am reminded of a claim i found interesting: a guy in Canada claimed to be healing cancer with the use of cannabis. (erroneously aka marijuana) and it occurred to me that due to the political landscape, a true scientific test of this kind of claim would be nigh impossible.

has science even ever looked at the idea of cancer being caused by the absence of something rather then the presence of something?

Mon, 05 Sep 2011 04:34:54 UTC | #867329

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 13 by DavidMcC

Comment 12 by DaveyJones

has science even ever looked at the idea of cancer being caused by the absence of something rather then the presence of something?

Yes. For example:

Science Daily article

Confirmation That Vitamin D Acts as a Protective Agent Against the Advance of Colon Cancer

In general, the absence of adequate vitamins makes us more vulnerable to a range of diseases, some cancers included.

Mon, 05 Sep 2011 13:49:03 UTC | #867460

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 14 by DavidMcC

Comment 11 by raytoman

Our earliest ancestor was a worm and we have simply evolved around it.

When you put it that way, I agree!

I also understand that life needed a light sensitive area to enable them to detect the light and duck back under for cover. Led to eyes.

True, but it happened more than once, and in very different ways. This caused much consternation among evolutionary biologists!

Wed, 07 Sep 2011 14:11:59 UTC | #868240

pinball's Avatar Comment 15 by pinball

“99% of functional genes in the body are microbial.”

Put like that it is almost like we are giant parasites infecting huge populations of different species of bacteria.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 13:53:03 UTC | #913819

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 16 by ccw95005

Well, the truth is that every one of our cells has components to maintain itself and of course is unaware of what we see as its larger purpose. So we are truly colonies of trillions of cells, each of which is mostly independent except for interactions with other cells by chemical or electrical potential or whatever. That's all we are, people. It's almost miraculous that we evolved as we did. Before Darwin, it was impossible to understand how we - and the plants and animals around us - could exist as we are without the intervention of God. It still boggles the mind to think that we gradually developed, step by step, into these incredible thinking machines that we are. Seems almost impossible, yet here we are.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 18:52:18 UTC | #913951

Quine's Avatar Comment 17 by Quine

This article shows very clearly why doctors need to be educated in Evolutionary Biology.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 19:43:12 UTC | #913981

ThePoeticAtheist's Avatar Comment 18 by ThePoeticAtheist

@Quine Very true. I think doctors are to biology what engineers are to physics; application, application, no novel insight (unless we look at the occasional doctor or engineer who decides to take a step up). It's surprising to see in the vast majority of medical literature that MDs will use the word 'resistance' but never mention 'evolution' or 'natural selection' when discussing topics such as the cline of virulence among bacteria.

Sun, 26 Feb 2012 16:48:42 UTC | #922105