Rob Barringer asked:
Can plants get cancer?
Chris - It’s an intriguing question. The best way, I think, to answer this is to try and read what's behind that question and I believe that it’s getting at two aspects of disease. (c) A. G. Matthysse, K. V. Holmes, R. H. G. Gurlitz
" alt="Agrobacterium tumefaciens bacteria" />One is proliferation of cells. So do you get proliferation of cells in plants? Yes! Crown gall disease. There's a bacterium called Agrobacterium tumofaciens, which inserts DNA sequences into plant genomes to trigger cell proliferation causing these galls to form on trees. So that's a similarity.
Secondly, do you get spread of cancer-like diseases throughout the entire plant, in the same way that cancers can spread - or metastasise - in humans? Well, many diseases, and particularly viral diseases, can become – as we say – systemic and spread throughout the organism; so multiple "tumours" could form, but this is not the same as cancerous tissue itself moving from one place to another in an organism.
So there are some similarities, but also some important differences.
Ben - So it’s not quite as clear-cut. There are clearly similar problems but they're not really directly comparable to the system we see in humans for example.
Chris - That's correct.
As I understand it there are two sides to cancer - the initial cells going rogue and then the spread of the cancerous cells. In plants the second aspect is missing as the xylem/phloem carry nutrients but not cells. They are not the same as the lymphatic system which carries around cells and I believe are how cancers spread. In plants the cells tend to stay in a fixed position in the framework they are given.
Apoptosis is your answer. Basically when plants have damaged/cancerous cells they can force the cell to commit suicide so as soon as there is a cancer in a cell the plant can destroy it before it spreads and causes widespread damage in the plant The science enthusiast, Wed, 5th Oct 2011
Burls are common.
Clifford, that's very interesting, I shall have to investigate further into any immune cells plants may have.