Could the mechanisms underlying cancer also be used to grow new body parts?

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raphKa  asked the Naked Scientists:
      May I ask you to discuss on Redi's show this premise which I
should like to pose.

 Purely as a layman ,  I understand that cancer cells are runaway
cells reproducing at top uncontrolled speed of multiplication.

If that ability was somehow (genetically perhaps) coupled to the stem cell research could not new limbs or body organs not be produced to order in extremely short time so as to make science-fiction science-faction ?

As an avid listener I await a few moments, pertaining to the above ,
in a future programme. I thank you for your precious time when
possibly considering these thoughts of mine. If a slot on radio is
unavailable may I request some sort of answer if your time permits.

Most obliged to you ,

What do you think?


Offline carreerslut

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As another layman, once medically trained but long forgotten,  I somehow think not;  Point of cancer cells is they are cells out of control.  The body has a mechanism for destroying damaging, dying, mutant or uneceesary cells.  The mechanism is not perfect, hence we all have dotted around moles, cysts, benign tumours etc.  But cancer are damaged cells which survive destruction and then take on a life of their own, growing out of control of the needs of the body and not following the same instructions as regular cells.  I would think implanting cancer cells in a damaged area would at the worst just bring cancer to the area.  This is what kills, when cancer cells get into the blood and lymph and travel to other sites, to set up their alien activities there.
Recreating damaged cells I think is not about getting them to grow quickly, it is about getting them to grow correctly.  An analogy I suppose is having some people trapped in a building, aka the damaged or missing limb etc, and deciding whether to send in the fire brigade, s.a.s whatever, cautious, well trained, careful, or a maniac with some hand grenades and a machine gun aka the cancer.  Either would get the people out, maybe the maniac even quicker, but would they live?
Seems science is taking the cautious approach.  But you may get an expert on the area answering here, who disagrees entirely with my ideas.  That's fine, I know little of the area anyway!


Offline Pwee

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I agree with carreerslut in the cautious vs maniac analogy.

The problem would be to stop the cancerous cells from reproducing or to slow their reproduction down to the normal level. If we could do that, we should have the cure for cancer by now.
I say that we could learn from those cells how to enhance reproduction rates, but first we have to find a way to stop them at the right time too. And if we did that, it would be the cure for cancer and only as a sideeffect a way to treat wounds and damaged organs better.

If i remember correctly, one of the current problems of stemcell researchers is exactly that a percentage of the cells they create become cancerous and so they pose a threat to health. If I'm not mistaken this is a problem with the technique where they use a genetically engineered virus to make stemcells from a normal cell of the body (for example skin cell).

I also remember an episode of x-files where the villain's body was a big tumor and he could regenerate extremely fast and even regrow himself...