Monday, May 17, 2010

Silent Mutations

Initially scientists believed that if a proteins makeup ended up being correct any small glitches in the process leading to its construction could not do a body harm. This was proved wrong eventually though. Point mutations, which are single letter changes to the DNA, can change a codon to one that specifies the wrong amino acid or to a stop signal, which makes the last protein shortened. A single base change can also change a stop codon so that it encodes an amino acid making the protein longer. Yet another change is possible, a mutation that alters a nucleotide but yields a synonymous codon. This is called a “silent mutation”. These silent mutations were called silent mutations because they weren’t known to do any harm or cause any damages to the body or cause any diseases. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that scientists realized that silent mutations could affect protein production in bacteria and yeast. They found out that the genes in the bacteria did not use synonymous codons in equal numbers. They soon found out that cells were using certain codons because those codons enhanced the rate or accuracy of protein synthesis. Scientists then found out that our bodies do show a bias for certain codons. So scientists thought for many years that these findings had nothing to do with silent mutations influence on the human body. When scientists started looking at whether silent sites in genes evolved at the same rate as non coding regions, they found differences, a sign that silent mutations could affect physiology after all. Today scientists have found that 50 genetic disorders are linked to silent mutations.
This is very important information and it does affect society in many ways. It shows how you can think something is safe but once explored further is far from it. These silent mutations affect people because if someone is affected by one and they didn’t know what was wrong with them that would be bad. Now we know that if someone has a genetic disorder and it isn’t apparent what it is they can explore further to see if it is caused by a silent mutation. As you can probably deduce by yourself this is fairly bad news considering that we don’t have stable vaccinations or treatments for these types of disorders yet. Eventually with modern medicine we will get there but it will take time. At least people now have some answers to their questions. They can know what is wrong with them and why we just can’t help them that well yet.
This was a pretty good article. I think it could have been a little more interesting to keep the reader’s attention but it was very informative. I would recommend this article to people who think they suffer from a genetic disorder caused by a silent mutation and also doctors and scientists who are studying these silent mutations because it has a lot of good information and they would be able to understand it well because they have been around this type of talk. It also explains some of the fuzzy areas that I didn’t quite understand well and helps me understand them better. Particularly people who suffer from a genetic disorder caused by a silent mutation would benefit from this because they could understand exactly what is wrong with them and it might help them out to find out how to get help about it.


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