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Osmosis and cell death

  1. May 1, 2005 #1
    Could a tumour cell be killed in a person
    by making the cell membrane too permeable
    to water and so causing tumour cells to swell
    and burst.Perhaps active transport of some kind would be
    needed to do this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2005 #2


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    That would be a bad way to kill a cell: you induce necrosis of tissue, which is very messy. The cytoplasm is spilled to the environment, leading to a breading ground of bacteria and causing an inflammation reaction. You can better selectively kill a cell by apoptosis. Researchers are trying to find markers that are specific for tumor cells, but finding one is difficult. Some success has been made in treating melanomas by inducing an immune response to those.

    There are medicines available that do exactly what you are suggesting: poking holes in cell membranes against micro-organism that cause illnesses. Your immune system uses the system too, were perforins are excreted from activated cells.
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