We Are All X-Men: What Is a Mutation?

Blogging for Dopamine

X-Ray of Polydactyly: By en:User:Drgnu23, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APolydactyly_01_Lhand_AP.jpg X-Ray of Polydactyly (6 fingers): By en:User:Drgnu23, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APolydactyly_01_Lhand_AP.jpg

When we hear the word mutation, it conjures to mind hideous images of human-fish hybrids that might come swimming away from Chernobyl, animals with two heads and Caesar from Planet of The Apes. But in reality, mutations can be much more subtle than that. Mutations can happen on such a small level that you can’t even tell they’ve happened; they’re not always caused by radioactivity or toxic substances. Mutations are the mechanism behind evolution, and the reason behind cancer and certain hereditary diseases. Geneticists use the word mutation to describe a change to an organism’s genetic code, which can sometimes cause a change to their physical appearance, behaviour, health and a variety of other genetically-determined traits, and these changes can either occur in a single individual, or can be heritable mutations, meaning they can be passed on to their offspring.

Before I…

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