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Last-ditch DNA battle to save Tasmanian devil from extinction at hands of contagious cancer spread by biting

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Last-ditch DNA battle to save Tasmanian devil from extinction at hands of contagious cancer spread by biting By ROB WAUGH Researchers have sequenced the genome of a contagious cancer that is threatening the Tasmanian devil, the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, with extinction. The Tasmanian devil is the only animal on Earth at risk of being wiped out by a contagious cancer. The cancer, which is spread by biting, came from the cells of a single female Tasmanian devil, nicknamed 'The Immortal Devil' because although she died more than 15 years ago, her DNA is living on in the contagious cancer cell line that she spawned. The cancer causes tumours on the face of affected devils.The tumours grow rapidly and the devils die within months. 'The Tasmanian devil cancer is the only cancer that is threatening an entire species with extinction,' says Dr Elizabeth Murchison, lead author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

82287=4595-article-0-11C4D604000005DC-31 The Tasmanian devil is the only animal on Earth at risk of being wiped out by a contagious cancer 'Sequencing the genome of this cancer has allowed us to catalogue the mutations that caused this cancer to arise and to persist in the Tasmanian devil population.' 'Cancers that transmit through populations are obviously incredibly rare, but we should use the Tasmanian devil example to understand the process to be prepared in the extremely unlikely event that such an epidemic ever occurs in humans,' says Professor Mike Stratton, senior author and Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The team found evidence for genetic differences between tumours, indicating that the cancer has changed during its spread through the Tasmanian devil population. They searched for these genetic differences between the tumours of 69 different devils from distant locations in Tasmania, allowing them to build up a map of the cancer's spread through the devil population. This indicates that some cancer sub-types may be more virulent than others. 'We found that devil cancer's genome has about 20,000 mutations. This is fewer mutations than are found in some human cancers and indicates that cancers do not need to be extremely unstable in order to become contagious.' says Dr David Bentley, senior co-author from Illumina Cambridge Ltd. Tracing the evolutionary history and spread of this cancer helps us to understand not only what caused this disease but also to predict how it might behave in the future.' Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2102121/Tasmanian-devil-risk-extinction-contagious-cancer-spread-biting.html#ixzz1n1EBRu44 :taz::taz::taz:

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Hi Sian, I was in Australia about 7 years ago and I traveled to Tasmania and I stayed in the city of Hobart. Back then this was happening and I was told they would be extinct soon.. When on tours to see them the zookeepers although concerned for the Tasmanian Devil's survival they apologize for the hideousness of the animal before, during and after you meet these creatures. They are so hideous, loud and mean that you instinctively want them all dead. Imagine you had an overgrown fat rat screaming to the top of their lungs unwaveringly, erratic and violent animal in your back yard attacking, dismembering and eating themselves, your dog, cat and ready to attack you at all times. I know its hard to say but if one lived in your back yard you cannot believe the wretched screams, the horrible noise and the violence. You'd be out back with a shot gun aiming for a kill. They got sick because the government gathered them all and didn't know what to do with them. I was believed that this cancer was genetically engineered by the government to kill them off but no evidence has been found. Naturally, conservationists and agencies in charge of the endangered species are scrambling to save the species. What is interesting is if they were healthy and multiplied they wouldn't know what to do with them. I think that like other disagreeable animals of the past these too must go. They cannot coexist with humans not even in the new system. LOL!

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