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The cancer gene we all have - Michael Windelspecht


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Within every cell in our body, two copies of a tumor suppressor gene called BRCA1 are tasked with regulating the speed at which cells divide. Michael Windelspecht explains how these genes can sometimes mutate, making those cells less specialized and more likely to develop into cancer.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

How do cancer cells grow? How does chemotherapy fight cancer (and cause negative side effects)? The answers lie in cell division. George Zaidan explains how rapid cell division is cancer’s "strength" -- and also its weakness.
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding cancer is the idea that you can inherit cancer from your parents. Some people mistakenly say that cancer “runs in families” in the same way as hair color or freckles. In reality, cancer is an individual disease. You may inherit defective copies of genes from your parents, but in general, these genes simply increase your susceptibility for developing certain forms of cancer. The purpose of this article, and articles that are posted on the websites listed below, it to help you understand that cancer is due to an inability of a cell to regulate how fast it divides, and that this inability is due to mutations in specific genes in the cell.
Almost one in three Americans will contract cancer during their lifetime, and almost all of us know someone who has had cancer. It is important that everyone has an understanding of how cancer develops and how it relates to the genetics of our individual cells.
By understanding the genetic basis for cancer, researchers are able to pursue new lines of not only treating the disease but also strategies for preventing cancer or detecting it at an early stage. These breakthroughs are due to studies on genes such as the BRCA1 gene in this video.
Additional Resources
American Cancer Society page on the genetics of cancer.Ricochet Science article “What is the Link Between BRCA1 and Cancer”? page on genetic testing for BRCA1 allelesBRCA1 and BRCA2 Hereditary Gene Mutation and Cancer (YouTube:

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Michael Windelspecht
  • Director Michael Kalopaidis
  • Artist Dinos Hadjidemetri
  • Animator Maria Savva
  • Sound Designer Manolis Manoli
  • Producer Zedem Media
  • Narrator Michelle Snow

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