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Friday, May 22, 2009

Down syndrome and how it fights cancer

This is why I love the Internet so much: you get to learn stuff you otherwise might never have known. And this is why I love blogging so much: it gives me the opportunity to share stuff like this with others who also might never have known it :-)

Apparently it's been recognized for awhile among those in the field that people with Down syndrome (a genetic affliction marked by an extra chromosome) very rarely get cancer. According to an article at Science News about a newly published study in the journal Nature, it may be because of extra production of a cancer-fighting protein in people with Down...

People born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, instead of the usual two copies — one from each parent. The third chromosome causes genetic aberrations that result in the mental retardation and telltale physical traits that define the condition.

But chromosome 21 carries 231 genes, including some that may well suppress cancer. In the new study, researchers provide evidence that the protein encoded by the RCAN1 gene reins in the rampant blood vessel growth that a tumor needs to thrive. Scientists theorized that having an extra copy of the gene would result in more protein being made and add to an anticancer effect.

Scientists have long suspected that such genetic benefits might accrue from having an extra chromosome 21. A recent study found that people with Down syndrome are only about one-tenth as likely to get a solid-tumor cancer as are people without the syndrome.

There's plenty more of this intriguing study at the link above.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. And people afflicted with sickle cell anemia are generally immune to malaria. These could be considered 'good' mutations if it weren't for other affects they cause.