This week, I have been reviewing research grant applications for the National Cancer Institute, including a number of grants proposing detailed evaluation of the gene mutations that can cause cancer. After spending hours looking at figures and data, I needed a break from mutations and decided to watch a movie. One that has been on my “I should see that someday” list for some time is “X-men.” So much for taking a break from mutations. For those of you who are not familiar with “X-men,” it features a group of mutant humans with unique powers. There are good mutants and bad mutants, epic battles, heroes and villains, etc., etc. I won’t go into the details of the plot, but simply say it is worth seeing if you like special effects and over-the-top science fiction action, but not so much if you are a stickler for scientific plausibility.
Nevertheless, the movie certainly solidified “mutations” as my theme for the day, and got me thinking about the nugget of scientific truth that is the basis of the movie’s plot – namely the good and bad of mutations. So … I will put Wolverine, Sabertooth, and Magneto on hold for a moment, and talk about actual mutations. Continue reading