Latest Protein Spotlight: Side effects

Nature tiptoes along a sturdy yet fragile tightrope. DNA is its backbone and provides a basis from which every single living species on this planet emerges and prospers. Time, however, tampers with everything. Silver turns black. Fruit rots. And DNA undergoes mutations. But mutations have their good side too; without them, there would not be such a diversity of species that has ended up colonising most of the planet. We know that evolution relies on chemical changes that slip into DNA - and so into proteins - because they can help a species adapt better to its surroundings. Some mutations turn out to be less beneficial for some, however, and can give rise to havoc. This is perhaps what has happened between the Zika virus (ZIKV) and humans. Everyone has heard of the ZIKV outbreak in South America that began in 2015, during which many babies were born with undersized heads and brains, and diminished cognitive skills. Some scientists suggest that a mutation in a protein located on the virus's shell, and known as prM, is responsible for this form of microcephaly in human foetuses. More