An Animated Explanation About the BRCA1 ‘Cancer’ Gene and Why Everyone Has It

In this animated Ted-Ed lesson, educator Michael Windelspecht explains the purpose of the BRCA1 gene, why every human has it and what happens when that gene is mutated.

Typically, your body has a number of genetic mechanisms to control how fast your cells divide. One of these genes is BRCA1, which stands for breast cancer susceptibility gene 1. BRCA1 belongs to a class of genes called tumor suppressor genes. Tumor suppressor genes are involved in regulating how fast a cell divides. Normally, cell division follows an orderly process called the cell cycle, which is basically the life cycle of a cell. Within the cell cycle is a series of checkpoints, where proteins, such as the one produced by BRCA1, regulate how fast the cell may proceed…And in some cases, mutations may render BRCA1 ineffective. When this happens, cells with damaged DNA are allowed to divide. As they divide, these cells may accumulate additional mutations. These mutations may cause the cell to become less specialized and stop performing its original function in the tissue. If this occurs, then there’s a greater chance they’ll develop into cancer cells