Cancer and epigenetics


We normally define an uncontrolled growth of the cells as a cancer and still there is no proper medication found to give a total cure for this. Various reasons that may be responsible in causing this have been put forward by scientists.

A new mechanism proposed by a research team from Boston University of Medicine (BUSM) appeared in Science Daily on 15th May 2014. The concept is mainly based on the epigenetics. They point out that an on and off epigenetic switch would be the mechanism behind the development of different types of cancer.

First we’ll look what epigenetics is. With the growth and development of an organism some chemical reactions activate and deactivate parts of the genome at times and in specific locations and epigenetics is the study of these reactions and factors that influence them. Due to this process genetically identical cells express their genes differently and that results in various traits.

The belief is that the cancer occurs from the changes happen to cancer progenitor cells due to environmental and genetic factors and these changes occur as a result of mutations, hormonal imbalance and exposure to radiation and toxic substances. An instructor of medicine at BUSM shows that if everything occurs in an order cancer development cannot be disorganized as it seems. He further says that there is a general mechanism behind the cancer development from the progenitor cells and that may involve epigenetics. Cancer tumors being developed at various stages emphasize the fact that there is an epigenetic switch behind.

When a cancer is in progress cells keep on growing rapidly and they get stuck in their current stage of development and the cell characteristics won’t change further. For this rapid growth of the cells all the irreversible changes, mutations and effects of carcinogens are the reasons behind there should be a mechanism to stop the growth of the cells and to change their characteristics. When a cancer progresses different stages of rapid growth and differentiation could be observed. They believe that epigenetic changes have the ability to control growth and differentiation of cells that results in different types of cancer tumors.

Simply a cell continues to grow at a certain stage until it is given a signal (epigenetic switch) that propels it into a further differentiated cell. Future detail findings on the epigenetic code would probably help to develop drugs that could kill cancer progenitor cells and drug-resistant cancer cells. Let’s just wait until somebody come up with these improved drugs someday or young scientists you better give it a try!!!


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