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Name: Elizabeth A Zaugg
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
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Question:
Is it proven that cancer can be passed on by genetics? If cancer can be passed on through genetics, how does this occur? If cancer can be passed on by genetics, can it be detected before the cancer becomes malignant? Could it be possible, in the near future, for scientists to separate genes and make it possible for parents to 'order' their children? With the information about cancer, genetics and cloning, is there any way to coordinate our interests into one project/program? Or would you advise us to choose one of the areas of interests and do a more detailed project/program?



Replies:
Elizabeth,

I can only answer with some general information. The disease we call cancer is marked by an out-of-control cell division which often ends up producing a 'tumor' of misformed cells. These cells can often travel via the bloodstream or lymphatic systems to other areas of the body and start other cancers in those new areas (metastasis). You can understand that cell division is a very normal and necessary part of an organism's life. From the fertilized egg throughout life cells in the body are undergoing division (there are notable exceptions especially in the nervous system) Since rapid (but controlled) cell division must occur in the fertilized egg to result in a human body with vastly differentiated cells, you can see that perhaps whatever slows down the faster pre-birth cell division could somehow mal- function in life, either through genetic error or environmental factors the rapid cell division could again begin and if out of control result in cancers/tumors. The trick is to find those genetic errors before the 'switch' to restart rapid, uncontrolled cell division begins. There is currently a great deal of research involving human genetic makeup in trying to map areas of chromosomes responsible for certain major diseases. One day it is clear that we will get a handle on finding genetic problems early and perhaps providing gene therapy to replace or supplement damaged/lacking areas. It is a fascinating cutting edge technology. You can visit your library at school or the local university library and inquire as to how to locate current literature on the subject. Please ask if I can be of more help.

Ric (rickru)



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