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Odd mechanism for cancer

Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:29 am

On another discussion board (not a science board), a member posted the following explanation for the mechanism underlying cancer. I have been trying to convince him that there are a few, um, problems with this mechanism. (He insists, for example, that "interon" is the correct spelling for "intron" even though what he describes isn't even an intron!)

I would like to gather some other opinions, lest I am way off base here, about this proposed mechanism. Here are my questions:

1. Is there any such thing as an "interon"?

2. Have any human operons actually been identified, other than through genomic analysis (i.e., prospective operon sequences)?

3. If so, does this explanation bear any resemblance to what we mean when we say "operon?"

4. What is your evaluation of the passage as a whole?

Thanks for any input you can provide...

Here is the passage in question:

On a scientific basis, cancer is defined as abnormal cell growth. To understand it, it is necessary first to understand the development of a fetus. As cell division begins through mitosis and the original egg splits into 2, then 4, then 8, then 16 etc. to 64 cells all of these cells can develop into any tissue - bone, muscle, nerve, etc.. When the embryo goes beyond this stage in division, the cells differentiate into the various tissues. Now, the chemical change that takes place - to use an analogy - is like flipping a switch. In this case, a biochemical switch. Once this switch is turned off, each cell in the embryo is going to continue to divide but they will each become a particular tissue. These are often termed the "operon" and the "interon", the operon being the switch and the interon being the chemical (tRNA, m-RNA) that disappears and causes the switch to shut off.

Now, it is hypothesized that a cancerous cell begins when the interon, or a chemical/substance biochemically similar, is reintroduced into the cell and reactivates the switch. So, the cell begins to divide again (uncontrolled, abnormal cell growth) but doesn't have the genetic materials necessary to become its own embryo, just a vascularized mass (it taps into your blood vessels). Most cancers develop as a tumor (pre-vascularized tumors are easier to remove and generally are benign) but some don't (like leukemia). Beyond abnormal cell growth, cancers are also invasive (they affect cells around them) and they may metastasis (travel through the blood to another spot and begin a new tumor). Tumors that have metastasised, or have the potential to, are termed malignant.

Where does the interon come from and what is it? It can differ from person to person - which it is believed accounts for why some people get cancer from, say, cigarettes or pthalates and others don't. There are various environmental, chemical, and genetic routes that can cause, explain or "predict" the susceptability of a person to certain cancers. It is almost analogous to allergies - my allergy is not your allergy although many people may be allergic to the same thing (which causes a higher incidence of cancer from a substance) or the substance may cause a high degree cross segmented cancer (known Carcinogenic chemicals such as Carbon tetrachloride or chlorinated solvents - though the actual incidence of cancer from even these chemicals is much lower than predicted).

Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:13 am

probably a poor translation of some term

Re: Odd mechanism for cancer

Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:50 pm

I agree that this does not make sense at all.

I have never heard of the term interon, nor can I find any reference to it.
I will admit that I do not know nearly enough about operons to answer your specific questions, but I do not quite follow how the typical definition of an operon fits into this proposed mechanism.

I did pick up on something that has always bugged me when people discuss biology. he states "So, the cell begins to divide again (uncontrolled, abnormal cell growth) but doesn't have the genetic materials necessary to become its own embryo, just a vascularized mass (it taps into your blood vessels)."
The phrase "....doesn't have enough genetic materials necessary..." is what bothers me here. All cells have the exact same DNA (genetic material). It is only what parts of the DNA used and how a given cell uses these parts that differ. If he stated that the cell does not have the ability to use all parts of the DNA to code for any given cell (totipotent), then this statment would have made sense. It may seem a trivial matter, but it has always been a sticking point for me that all cells have the same DNA!

Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:08 am

Yes, biobill, I picked up on that one as well. But this person seems fixated on justifying his use of the non-term "interon," so that is what I specifically asked about. The piece has many flaws, and I'm sure you can find several if you care to.

Thu Aug 07, 2008 8:58 pm

I'm curious Wingnut, what justification has he used for the term interon? I would be interested to know where he found this term from....

Yes, I picked up on quite a few flaws myself too, but have chosen to let them speak for themselves! Where did he get this mechanism from? Did he give any sources for this mechanism, or is this something he pulled from his own "knowledge"?

Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:05 pm

It was something he pulled from his own knowledge. He claims to have been a student in the lab where this mechanism was hammered out, and that I was grossly uninformed -- it is in every single genetics, biochem, and cell bio text, according to him. He said this before finding out I had a PhD in biology, and have taught upper-level cell bio and biochem.

He's really quite nasty. I do confess I have been hoping to get some "interesting" statements from other biologists to show to him...

Re: Odd mechanism for cancer

Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:56 pm

Here is a citation that may clear things up - from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Biology, though there were a lot of other references to interon on the internet, especially in older articles. http://www.infoplease.com/cig/biology/r ... yotes.html

You should Google operon + interon + cancer, then when it asks "if you meant intron" at the top of the search, select the "no I really meant to search for interon" link.
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