What definition is simply protein wrapped around

What happens when your cells harm you instead of help you? This lesson discusses examples of just such aberrant cells, including virus infected cells and cancer cells.

What Are Aberrant Cells

It’s not unreasonable to expect the cells in your body to do their jobs. Kidney cells should filter your blood. Heart cells should help your heart beat. Blood cells should fight infections.

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Unfortunately, life is not always perfect. Your cells sometimes have challenges that prevent them from doing their job. When a cell isn’t acting properly, it is called aberrant. Your body requires cooperation from many different types of cells to stay healthy, so having cells that aren’t working correctly can be dangerous.Like knocking over one domino and setting off a chain reaction, the problems that aberrant cells have can be passed on to other cells or parts of the body, causing widespread problems. Let’s look at some examples of aberrant cells including those infected with a virus and cancer cells.

Virus-Infected Cells

A virus at its most basic definition is simply protein wrapped around DNA. Viruses are unable to copy themselves without the help of a host cell, so when a virus invades your body, it finds cells to do the job for them. Those infected cells then start making new viruses, while the invading virus lounges around with its feet up. Once new viruses have been made, they leave that first cell and go on to infect other cells. Of course, the body would prefer to not be taken over by viruses, so it tries to stop the infection.When a cell is infected with a virus, it does a few things to stop it from spreading.

First, the cell will go into something of a ‘sleep’ mode, where it won’t make proteins or try to replicate itself. This prevents new viruses from being made. Then, the cell sends signals to neighboring cells telling them to lock their doors, so to speak, so they have a lower chance of being infected. Finally, infected cells send an SOS signal to the immune system, which will send fighters to remove the infected cell.

Cancer Cells

Normally, cells have specific requirements they have to meet to be able to copy themselves. Cancer cells, though, ignore or lose these requirements and replicate constantly.

They can grow into a giant ball of cells called a tumor, and then spread, or metastasize , through the body.

Normal cell division (above) destroys defective cells. Cancerous cell division (below) propagate the aberrant cells
Cancer division

Cancer is a result of multiple mutations, or changes, to the cell.

These mutations can be inherited or come from DNA damaged by exposure to UV radiation, tobacco smoke, some viruses.Aberrant cancer cells, because they have mutated, will have different proteins on their surface than normal cells. The immune system can try to recognize these abnormal proteins, but unfortunately, cancer cells also have mechanisms that allow them to effectively hide from the immune system.

The Immune System

The human body is in a constant battle with aberrant cells. Most of the time, the immune system is able to remove these cells before they cause major damage. However, sometimes, a virus or cancerous cell can hide from the immune system. As the body tries different methods to remove them, aberrant cells can develop new ways to hide.

When the aberrant cell spreads faster than the immune system can remove it, the result can be catastrophic.

Lesson Summary

An aberrant cell is a body cell that has been somehow changed. Viral infection is one such change, causing a host cell to make new viruses. Cancer is another change that makes aberrant cells.

Cancer is caused by mutations (from various sources including tobacco, UV radiation, or a viral infection) that allow a cell to replicate indiscriminately. Both virus-infected cells and cancer cells can cause major damage to the body by spreading the infection or cancer to other cells. The immune system works to remove aberrant cells, but it is not always effective.


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