MUTANTS?!!? What are they? Are they for real?
Before digging into the never ending tales of mutants, the concept of mutation and the mechanisms behind it should be cleared first. A mutation is basically a sudden change in the DNA sequence causing a gene's expression to change. In the terms of biotechnology and genetics, a mutation is a change in nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus, or extrachromosomal genetic element.
A mutation can either occur independently or in concert with other mutations. Mutations are of various types viz. point mutation, frame shift mutation etc., but all of the ultimately result into a changed gene expression causing the trait associated with that particular gene or a set of genes (tat are related to first gene or dependent on it for their functioning) to change too. Though it is entirely a natural phenomenon, it could be induced artificially too, for instance by introduction of a chemical 'colchicine' into plant chromosomal material causing the chromosomal doubling, leading to formation of a new hybrid species of that plant (genetically altered plants or genetically modified plants). Other inducible mechanisms include chemicals like Hydroxylamine NH2OH, Base analogs (e.g. BrdU), Alkylating agents (e.g. N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea) , agents that form DNA adducts (e.g. ochratoxin A metabolites), DNA intercalating agents (e.g. ethidium bromide), DNA crosslinkers, nitrous acid ( it converts amine groups on A and C to diazo groups thereby altering their hydrogen bonding patterns which causes incorrect base pairing during replication), oxidative damage and radiation (UV).
The sources of mutation vary depending on the nature of the occurred mutation. There are basically four classes of mutation on the basis of its sources:
(1) Spontaneous mutations (molecular decay) caused by depurination, deamination, tautomerism or slipped strand mispairing.
(2) Mutations due to error prone replication by-pass of naturally occurring DNA damage also known as error prone translesion synthesis.
(3) Errors introduced during DNA repair that happen to be very common among all the sources of mutation and
(4) Induced mutations caused by mutagens.
The cell or organism bearing mutation(s) is termed as a mutant. Mutation can occur in a single cell thereby effecting only its expression or it can occur in a way that effects the whole phenotype of the organism. Such mutations though rare, do occur in nature. Once again they can be introduced artificially too but that's not very much favoured considering the laws of the nature. For a change in the usual phenotype or expression of the whole organism, the mutation must have to occur to a great extent. These mutations effecting the whole organism could either have either be produced during the zygote/gamete formation or at a later period in life after birth due to some external factors or internal dysfunction in the genes or DNA like errors produced during DNA repair.
There are some very well-known examples of such mutations in nature which appear to have an impact on the whole organism. Among humans, they are though rare but wide-spread and their extra-ordinary abilities make them stand higher in terms of capabilities from the rest of the mankind.
A Dutch man, Wim Hof, is typically invulnerable to cold and extremely low temperatures which he has proven by swimming in ice cold water and being buried in ice for long hours. He has been the one man climbing the Mount Everest in shorts only and when submerged in freezing water that would pretty much kill a normal human in a few minutes, his body temperature barely drops. Wim Hof has been tested by the researchers and they found out that he can actually control his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation. While practising his concentration technique, he was administered endotoxin and it was found that the increase of the stress hormone cortisol in Hof was much more pronounced compared to other healthy volunteers. The result was interpreted on the behalf of the fact that this hormone is released in response to increased autonomic nervous system activity and that it happen to suppress the immune response. In accordance, the levels of inflammatory mediators in Hof's blood were found to be much lower. On average, Hof's immune response happened to decrease by 50 percent compared to other healthy volunteers. In addition, hardly any flu-like symptoms appeared. These results are definitely remarkable and points towards the extra ordinary abilities of the Ice man, 'Wim Hof'.
Kim Peek who passed away in 2009, had perfectly memorized 12,000 books, could recall 98% of the past experiences or events and was believed to have an eidetic memory, or photographic memory, the concept that has always been in doubt and controversy. Peek's incredible ability is believed to have come from a congenital birth defect, which happened to result in an increased memory capacity.
Another man with extra-ordinary abilities is Ma Xiangang whose body can bear high voltages of electricity (that cause fatal effects and usually death in normal human beings) and doesn't feel and pain whatsoever. He found out about this by accidentally touching a live wire. According to the testings performed on him, he has a resistance seven to eight times greater than the average human being, which grants him the ability to handle live wires without safety equipment.
Dean Karnazes, an American long-distance runner who is capable of inhuman feats of endurance, such as running 50 marathons in each of the 50 states consecutively for 50 days. According to a medical study performed on him, his CPK number was measured which shows the amount of damage your muscles sustain from exercise. For instance, a normal runner's CPK would be around 2,400 after a marathon while Karnazes was found to be at 447 after 25 consecutive marathons. The study claimed that his muscles not only damage much less with exercise than the normal person's, they eventually actually get used to continuous exercise and then stop being damaged altogether. This study also revealed that he has more blood in his circulatory person, far more as compared to a normal person. The study also claims that if he's kept fed and hydrated regularly, he can keep running almost forever.
These findings suggest that humans are still evolving with the slow pace of time. Moreover, one can conclude that mutants do exist although not as depicted in exaggerated sci-fi shows. From a small to a large mutation, various examples lie widespread on the face of earth pointing out the presence of humans with extra-ordinary capabilities possibly caused due to sudden changes in their DNA sequences, gene pattern or motifs leading to a change in the normal gene expression ultimately causing an alteration in the whole phenotype and traits associated with the gene.
About Author / Additional Info:
A budding Bio technologist from India. Visit http://in.linkedin.com/pub/shivani-sharma/4b/91b/384 for more details or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researcher ID- J-4200-2012