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Author Topic: Can plants get cancer?  (Read 5204 times)

Offline Dimz

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Can plants get cancer?
« on: 03/07/2011 22:22:47 »
Hi all

I was taking a stroll through some of the wooded area around my university and was contemplating life, as you do. And then I thought about plants, and wondered if, like humans, plants develop tumors, or uncontrolled cell growth when mechanisms in cell cycles go wrong. Then I thought, do plants have circulatory systems like the human blood system/lymphatic system? If so, is it therefore plausible that these tumorous cells could metastasize, and spread, and be malignant. Could this mean that plants can effectively get cancer!?

I know next to nothing about plants, I'm only a 2nd year Biomed student. If someone could lend me some insight, I would be very interested to hear.


 

Offline RD

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #1 on: 04/07/2011 01:24:31 »
See this gallery
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #2 on: 04/07/2011 01:58:07 »
Hello Dimz,

I do not think that plants get cancer but parasitical relationships do cause the cells to mutate as RD has shown in the link they provided above.

 

 

Offline RD

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #3 on: 04/07/2011 10:01:37 »
I do not think that plants get cancer but parasitical relationships do cause the cells to mutate as RD has shown in the link they provided above.

Because the abnormal cell growth is triggered by a parasite, (rather than iatrogenic idiopathic), does not exclude the use of the term "cancer", particularly when the parasite modifies the hosts DNA, e.g. ...

Plant 

Quote
Agrobacterium tumefaciens ... is the causal agent of crown gall disease (the formation of tumours) in over 140 species of dicot. It is a rod shaped, Gram negative soil bacterium ... Symptoms are caused by the insertion of a small segment of DNA (known as the T-DNA, for 'transfer DNA') into the plant cell, which is incorporated at a semi-random location into the plant genome.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrobacterium_tumefaciens


Animal

Quote
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a member of the papillomavirus family of viruses that is capable of infecting humans. ... in a minority of cases lead to cancers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_papillomavirus


i.e. just because a parasite caused the abnormal cell growth it doesn't prevent it being called "cancer".

[DNA mutation by means other than parasite, say radiation, could also cause cancer in plants and animals ] 
« Last Edit: 04/07/2011 10:35:38 by RD »
 

Offline imatfaal

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #4 on: 04/07/2011 10:23:20 »
Because the abnormal cell growth is triggered by a parasite, (rather than iatrogenic), does not exclude the use of the term "cancer", particularly when the parasite modifies the hosts DNA, e.g. ...

Cancer that was iatrogenic would probably be called grounds for a law suit or even a criminal prosecution.  But you are quite right that being caused by a parasite or other foreign entity does not preclude it being called cancer
 

Offline RD

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #5 on: 04/07/2011 10:33:33 »
Cancer that was iatrogenic would probably be called grounds for a law suit or even a criminal prosecution. 

Sorry I meant idiopathic   [:I]
 

Offline imatfaal

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #6 on: 04/07/2011 10:53:09 »
Caused by an i
Sorry I meant idiopathic   [:I]

Caused by an idiot? In some people opinion it might be the same thing! 
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #7 on: 04/07/2011 14:12:42 »
I think this all comes down to how we define cancer.  The actual origin of the word cancer comes from the so called father of medicine, Hippocrates and was a term applicable to humans. 
Now we know that cancer can effect all animals, this is because by the definition of cancer relating to a condition originating in the diagnosis of a problem in humans can also apply to other members of the animal kingdom that have circulatory systems and lymphatic systems that can in some cases spread the cancer throughout the organism.

So in plants, it would be rather pedantic to suggest that plants get cancer using terms that give a description of a condition found in animals.  Plants do not have a circulatory system that resembles anything like what is found in animals and therefore to say a plant has cancer would be misleading and counter intuitive.

If the definition of cancer was that cells divide uncontrollably in an organism then yes you could state that plants have cancer but lets not beat around the bush!
 

Offline imatfaal

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #8 on: 04/07/2011 15:31:06 »
AirT - cancer is a malignent and unchecked neoplasm and as such can be applied to any multicellular organism even plants

From the cancer research uk website
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Ever since complex life evolved, it has been susceptible to cancer. Plants can get cancer. Dinosaurs probably suffered from it. It has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It is certainly not a modern disease.
 

Offline Dimz

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #9 on: 04/07/2011 17:23:51 »
Oh wow looks like this has opened up a whole new can of worms!

Cancer I always thought applied only to humans/animals. But if plants can get uncontrolled cell growth, and that growth can spread, I think that's similar enough to cancer to resemble what I'm meaning, perhaps not technically by definition 'cancer', but similar enough to effectively be the plant alternative! But enough about the technicalities, I found that gallery very interesting, many thanks for the link! Perhaps somebody could explain why it is so unusual for plants to get abnormal cell growth, unless caused by a parasite, when in animals, abnormal cell growth happens (apparently) a lot more frequently?

Or perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick!
 

Offline imatfaal

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Offline CliffordK

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #11 on: 04/07/2011 18:13:35 »
Trees get burls.

Apparently from many causes including parasites.  But, some may be cancerous.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burl


Note, cancer is often age associated.  In humans, diseases of the elderly have little impact on the gene pools.  But, since trees have a longer fertile period, natural selection would tend to limit the propagation of lethal mutations.
 

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Can plants get cancer?
« Reply #11 on: 04/07/2011 18:13:35 »

 

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