Cases

Monster tumour!

When an animal develops from the fusion of an egg and sperm cell, the first cell will divide and divide until a large ball of cells is formed.  These cells will go on to produce the entire animal, the placenta and membranes that surround it during development.  The organs and tissues formed from these cells are all very different from the original cells – we say that these cells have differentiated.  The cells can go down three possible routes:  The innermost layer of cells will form all of the guts, lungs and liver.  The middle layer of cells will form the skeleton, muscles, heart, blood and kidneys.  The outermost layer will form the skin and nervous system.  Eventually the developing animal will have a vast array of different cell types e.g. nerve cells, muscle cells, liver cells etc.

The cells undergoing their initial divisions.

The cells undergoing their initial divisions.

All of these cells have the potential to go wrong and form tumours e.g. brain tumours, muscle tumours and liver tumours.  Generally, these tumours will be made up of one cell type, e.g. the haemangiosarcoma we saw in a previous post was a tumour originating from the blood vessels, so the tumour itself was made up of a mish-mash of badly formed blood vessels.

In the ovary and testicle there are lots of cells which form the egg and sperm cells (germ cells) of the animal.  The job of these germ cells is to make complete new animals, so these cells have the potential to become ANY cell in the body during development of the foetus.  If this development goes wrong, and a tumour forms, the cells which make up the tumour could become any cells imaginable!

A teratoma from the chest.

A teratoma from the chest.  There’s a hair within the large cystic space.

A teratoma (‘terato’ comes from the greek for monster, and ‘-oma’ comes from the greek for tumour) is a tumour which consists of cells from all three layers of cells found during development.  We can find whole teeth, skin, glands, cartilage, bone, hair, muscle, fat, spleen, nerves and many more tissues inside these monstrous tumours.  These tumours originate from cells which have the potential to form other types of cells (stem cells), and stem cells are found all over the body, but they are in their largest numbers in the testicles and ovaries.  It goes without saying, that these are the most common sites for teratomas.

They cause a problem because they can grow quite large and interfere with the normal function of the organ in which they are growing.  Generally they are benign (teratoma), as they contain well-formed cells which don’t behave very aggressively.  However, sometimes some of the cell types within the tumour might not form fully or may be altered so that they become invasive and the tumour can be malignant (teratocarcinoma).

The eye and tumour are cut into a very thin section and put on a microscope slide.  The blue arrow is the eye, the black arrow is the tumour.

The eye and tumour are cut into a very thin section and put on a microscope slide. The blue arrow is the eye, the black arrow is the tumour.

In this case, a tumour was found behind the eye of a bird.  It was composed of a very bizarre mixture of lots of different tissues:

The black arrow points to a piece of cartilage with overlying tracheal tissue (respiratory epithelium - blue arrow).  The red arrow points to intestinal tissue (villi)!

The black arrow points to a piece of wind-pipe cartilage (respiratory epithelium – blue arrow). The red arrow points to some intestine!

Lobules of pancreas within this tumour.

Lobules of pancreas within this tumour.

There's even a fragment of muscle...

There’s a fragment of muscle…

...a large piece of cartilage.

…a large piece of joint cartilage.

There's even brain tissue in here!

There’s even brain tissue in here!

bone and marrow

The black arrow shows bone and the yellow arrow points out bone marrow. It’s almost like a whole new animal is growing within this tumour.

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2 thoughts on “Monster tumour!

  1. Hi! I know this is kind of off-topic however I had to ask.

    Does operating a well-established website such as yours take a large amount of
    work? I am completely new to operating a blog however I do
    write in my diary everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and feelings online.

    Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas
    or tips for new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

    • Hi Gwen, thanks for your message. Publishing on a blog between once a week and once every other week should be plenty to get your blog off the ground. When you have free time, write a few posts so you have spares to publish during weeks when you are too busy to spend time on the blog. Hope this helps and good luck with your blog!

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