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Tasmanian devil disease reveals its secrets

Deadly cancer turns off genes, evading the immune system

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4:46pm, March 11, 2013

A contagious cancer decimating Tasmanian devils makes itself invisible to the animals’ immune systems, which might otherwise fight it off, a new study shows.

Devil facial tumor disease shuts down production of proteins that normally decorate the surface of cells, telling the body whether a cell is its own or not. As a result, the devil’s immune system doesn’t recognize cancer cells from another devil as a potentially worrisome invader, Hannah Siddle, a marsupial geneticist at the University of Cambridge and an international group of collaborators report online March 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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