Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gene Scene Investigation

Mutations in important genes cause serious problems during development, and provoke diseases like cancer. Sometimes though, revealing the timeline from faulty gene to catastrophe takes a little detective work.

This zebrafish has a genetic mutation that eventually causes cancerous lesions – rips in the surface of its skin (coloured red and green here) which allow cancerous cells to spread deep into the tissue underneath (blue blobs). Oddly, many of the effects of the mutated gene, atp 1b1a, are on the fish’s kidneys.

So where does the skin cancer come from? It turns out the mutant kidney can’t control ion levels in the fish’s bodily fluids, causing hypotonic stress. This makes the skin more prone to cancerous invasion – hinting at a link between similar genetic mutations and unexplained human cancers.

Image from work by Julia Hatzold and colleagues

Story via BPoD/ John Ankers

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