Halloween Musings on Mutations

I Spy Physiology Blog

Leopard Woman in a Tree Humans haven’t mutated this much…yet. Credit: iStock

The word “mutation” may conjure up images of fictional monsters, Marvel X-Men and creatures with non-human characteristics. It’s true that mutations are often associated with disease: something that has gone wrong in the body to produce an oddly shaped body part or sometimes cancer. However, mutations can’t be categorized as “good” or “bad” so easily. In fact, some mutations turn out to be a good thing, such as the human affinity for long distance running. More on that in a bit, but first a lesson in mutations …

A mutation is a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. In other words, the DNA—genetic material that contains information about inherited characteristics—changes in a way that makes the gene different than how it normally appears in most people. Because of this change, certain proteins and their functions change…

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