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Name: Adelheid
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 11/29/2005

Does mutation of the genes cause deformity and degeneration all the time? Unlike what we are taught to believe in the case of Evolution?

While it is true that the majority of mutations will often cause a protein to work less well, or not at all, occasionally a mutation can produce a protein that works better, faster, or in a completely novel way. This second type of mutation plays a key role in evolution. Mutations are very much a part of the evolutionary process!

Paul Mahoney, PhD

The vast majority of mutations produce proteins that are not functional in relation to the protein that it replaces. This often results in a critical failure to the individual. However, occasionally, the mutation produces a protein that is functionally superior or benetifical to the organism, and this could mean a ground work to better survival or even a different individual or species. If you have studied hox genes or homobox relationships, this explains a great deal on how a mutation may effect a large change.

Sexual reproduction and mutations are fundamental to evolutionary change. No two individuals are alike. (Even identical twins are only alike by genetics, but often differ.) This is true of all organisms and helps explains why new species can evolve.

Steve Sample

If you were taught that mutation always causes deformity and degeneration all of the time, then you weren't taught the whole story. Mutation is just a change in the genetic code. The word generally has a bad connotation, but mutation can give an organism an advantage depending on the environment. A perfect example is the protein receptor, known as CCR5, that allows the HIV virus to attach to T cells. Some people have a mutated receptor which means that their receptors are non-functional. Thus, the HIV virus, even though it is in the body and these people will have a positive blood test for HIV, can't gain entry into the cells and therefore these people will not get AIDS. I'd call that a positive mutation in an environment where AIDS is rampant. By the way, some scientists have speculated that this is the same receptor that the bubonic plague used to attack cells, and that people who survived the bubonic plague passed this mutation down to their offspring. Some people who have been shown to have the mutated CCR5 receptor can trace their ancestry back to Europe in areas where bubonic plague struck. PBS has a series called "Secrets of the Dead" and one of the episodes was called "The Secret of the Black Death".

Van Hoeck

Very good question. Yes, most often mutations cause deformity because the body needs a certain amount of information in order to work properly. Too little or too much information can cause horrible problems. However, some mutations might cause some problems while enhancing other abilities. For instance, people with autism might not be able to do normal daily tasks like drive a car or even cook a meal, but remember everything that is said and done down to the date and time for their entire lives. We are still in the process of understanding why some mutations actually increase abilities yet take others away.

Grace Fields

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