Saturday, January 02 2010 @ 08:20 PM EST
Contributed by: jkr
By Felicity Ogilvie for AM
Fri. January 1, 2010 11:20am AEDT
Cancer attacking nerve cells: Scientists have hailed the discovery as a major breakthrough (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)A team of international scientists has made a major breakthrough in the fight to save tasmanian devils from extinction.
The team says it has worked out exactly what kind of cancer is killing the animals, finding that the deadly facial tumour disease is growing in the devils' nerve cells.
Until now, the contagious cancer has been as mysterious as it is deadly.
The scientists have published their findings in today's edition of the journal Science.
Professor Greg Woods, who works at the Menzies Research Unit in Hobart, made the discovery along with colleagues in New York and Melbourne.
"Basically we did some genetic analysis to discover that the tumour is actually about the peripheral nerve cell, called the Schwann cell," he said.