Friday, August 15, 2014

Plants Get Cancer, Too. But They Don't Care.

Cancers are horrible shit.
It knows no boundaries, age, color, gender, and it can hit at anyone at anytime on any part of the body--nose; throat; lungs--regardless of one's lifestyle or daily habits, though smokers and obese people do have higher chances of contracting cancer.
And it has no cure.

And animals get cancer, too. The Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) has been decimating Tasmanian Devils population since 1996, and we've seen facial tumours in dogs, cats and horses as well.
A devil with a face tumour. Image:

And then there's plant. Yes. Plants get cancer, too.
You may wonder why do plants get cancer, right? It's so unfair for them to contract the life-threatening disease. After all they're just standing there doing their harmless business of turning sunlight into energy. They rarely ever hurt anyone and they don't annoy other trees people by exhaling second-hand smoke and they don't consume fatty food. Why oh why?

But wait. Yes, plants do get cancer, but it's not like the cancer you see in animals.

In animals, a tumour develops when a cell (or group of cells) loses the built-in controls that regulate its growth, often as a result of mutations. Plants can experience the same phenomenon, along with cancerous masses, but it tends to be brought on via infection. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and insect infestation have all been tied to plant cancers. Oak trees, for example, often grow tumours that double as homes for larvae. —

Well, despite harbouring cancerous tumour plants are less vulnerable to its deadly effect. For instance a plant tumour wont metastasize (layman's term: spread) because the cells are locked in place by a matrix of rigid cell walls. And even when the cells begins dividing relentlessly the tumour will remain in the same place. It can't migrate like human tumours and hence not as fatal as cancer in animals.

And for humans it's unimaginable to know you have a tumour embedded in your throat; lungs; or brain, we just can't survive without those organs. But plants lack such organs. And trees don't die when you break one of their branches.
So plants don't really care when they get cancer.


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