How Somatic Mutations Lead to Cancer Development Video

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  • 0:01 Somatic Mutations
  • 0:38 Why Somatic Mutations Occur
  • 2:44 Case Example
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Cancer usually develops in the body in a multi-step process that involves proto-oncogenes, oncogenes, and tumor suppressor genes. Find out how as we define these terms and go over a concrete example of how they're involved.

Somatic Mutations

The cells that make up your body, just about all of them, can become cancerous. That means they go from being nice members of a community to vile, nasty neighbors that mean you a lot of harmer. Specifically, this lesson focuses on how somatic mutations lead to cancer. Somatic mutations are genetic alterations that occur in general body cells, alterations that can be passed on to the progeny of the mutated cells during cell division, but not to the progeny of the person. By general body cells, I mean cells that aren't germ cells, or the sperm and egg.

Why Somatic Mutations Occur

The general reason why arise is not that difficult to understand. Let me start with a metaphor to help you out. If you take a small piece of computer code and alter it in such a way that the code becomes a virus, a bunch of computer viruses will proliferate and spread all over the place. But those viruses can be suppressed by anti-virus programs too, right? Similarly, a normal cells genetic code can be altered in a small way, such that this alteration will cause it to become a cancerous cell that proliferates and spreads all over the body. But even these types of occurrences are kept in check by anti-cancer genes that work much like an anit-virus program to suppress the development of cancer. A normal gene that can become an oncogene after a mutation is called a proto oncogene. An oncogene is a gene with the potential to cause cancer. If the oncogene is activated, it will cause normal cells to rapidly divide and turn into cancerous cells.

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