Making Cancerous Mutations Harmless
2022 End of Year Campaign
No Damage Left Unchallenged!
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The genes in the nucleus of our cells have long been described as the “book of life,” but perhaps “the cookbook of life” would be more precise. Our genetic code contains the instructions your cells use to produce all the signaling factors, microscopic machines, and barriers that comprise our bodies and keep us alive and healthy. So you can imagine what can happen to a cell when a censor tears pages out of that book or crosses out offending words, or when a vandal scrawls text midsentence at the page break to transform a line into gutter humor. That’s what mutations (and epimutations) are: they delete or distort the instructions our cells need to make the stuff of life.
Because each mutation happens to a single cell in isolation, many mutations are harmless, because they hit a gene for some protein that the cell type where they occur doesn’t use — like the gene for a liver enzyme in a lung air sac cell. Others are mild and barely affect function. And even when a mutation severely interferes with a cell’s ability to do something important, the effect is often limited simply because it is limited to one cell out of millions or billions in a tissue that can pick up the slack.
But there are particular kinds of mutations that really can ruin a life. Fixing these mutations is impossible with the biotechnology of today and our near tomorrow — but we can prevent them from doing harm by going one link higher up in the chain and preventing the mutant cells themselves from doing harm. Support OncoSENS, and defang the mutant horde!
A SENS Conversation
With Dr. Ravi Jain & Michael Rae
This week's Life Noggin video:
Disease Focus: Cancer
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer in most wealthy countries — but cancer is a very close second, and it’s a disease that still strikes much more fear. In part, that’s because we don’t yet have the equivalent of statins and blood pressure drugs for holding off cancer, and in part because despite decades of work, treatment for many cancers is still a terrible ordeal with not great outcomes.
What makes cancer such a fearsome opponent is that it harnesses the power of evolution. Every treatment you throw at a tumor acts as a selective pressure in a population of hundreds of billions to trillions of cells that replicate and mutate at a ferocious pace. And it only takes a single cancer cell with a mutation that lets it escape a given therapy for the cancer to regroup and grow back.
The root of cancer is mutations, but what makes them deadly is the effects of those mutations: out-of-control growth. If we can irreversibly disable cancer cells’ ability to replicate themselves, mutation-bearing cells could be defanged. They would grow large enough to form benign little lumps in our bodies and then come to a sputtering halt. These benign growths could then be safely and permanently plucked out by a surgeon. Support OncoSENS, and run cancer out of gas!