January 21, 2011

Contagious Dog Cancer Steals Host Cell DNA

Imperial College London, Imperial College London

Imperial College London

A curious contagious cancer, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, can repair its own genetic mutations by adopting genes from its host animal, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Scientists at Imperial College London have uncovered an unusual process that helps the cancer survive by stealing tiny DNA-containing 'powerhouses' (known as mitochondria) from the cells of the infected animal, to incorporate as its own. They say this may be because genes in the tumour's own mitochondria have a tendency to mutate and degenerate. The results are surprising because mitochondria and their genes are usually only passed from a mother to her offspring.

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TAGGED: Mitochondria, Mitochondrial DNA, Cancer, Dogs