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IN a major breakthrough scientists have finally unlocked the cancer that is wiping out Tasmanian devils.

The discovery has killed the controversial theory of inbreeding causing the deadly disease.

But the cause of the culprit cell and the Devil Facial Tumour Disease remains a mystery and the search for a cure, while a step closer, could still be decades away.

An international research collaboration involving Tasmanian scientists has discovered the cells protecting the nerves are the origin of the deadly DFTD.

They have found it originated in the mouth, where there is a high concentration of nerves, and not another part of the body as first thought.

Scientists initially believed the cells originated in another part of the body but metastasized in the mouth.

The research has also unlocked another major find: the cancer is a clone that has risen from one individual cell in recent history and not a genetic condition affecting several generations.

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