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Articles on Mutations

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Some vaccines use mRNA to make copies of the triangular red spike proteins to induce immunity. Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

How can scientists update coronavirus vaccines for omicron? A microbiologist answers 5 questions about how Moderna and Pfizer could rapidly adjust mRNA vaccines

The new omicron variant of coronavirus has a number of mutations that may require manufacturers to update vaccines. The unique attributes of mRNA vaccines make updating them fast and easy.
The huge number of active coronavirus infections offers plenty of opportunity for mutations to occur and new variants to arise. Eoneren/E+ via Getty Images

Massive numbers of new COVID–19 infections, not vaccines, are the main driver of new coronavirus variants

When the coronavirus copies itself, there is a chance its RNA will mutate. But new variants must jump from one host to another, and the more infections there are, the better chance this will happen.
Mink can be readily infected with SARS-CoV-2 and then pass the virus to humans. (Shutterstock)

The mink link: How COVID-19 mutations in animals affect human health and vaccine effectiveness

In the disturbing scenario of human-to-mink-to-human COVID-19 transmission, the virus may mutate in mink prior to re-infecting people. That possibility makes vaccine design even more crucial.
Watching bacteria and viruses duke it out, evolving to outwit each other. UC San Diego

Discovery of a surprise multitasking gene helps explain how new functions and features evolve

A core idea in molecular biology is that one gene codes for one protein. Now biologists have found an example of a gene that yields two forms of a protein – enabling it to evolve new functionality.
As genes are favored or phased out, human evolution continues. ktsdesign/Shutterstock.com

Evolutionary geneticists spot natural selection happening now in people

Comparing genomes of more than 200,000 people, researchers identified genetic variants that are less common in older people, suggesting natural selection continues to weed out disadvantageous traits.
Gene drives aim to deliberately spread bad genes when invasive species such as mice reproduce. Colin Robert Varndell/shutterstock.com

‘Gene drives’ could wipe out whole populations of pests in one fell swoop

Releasing just 100 mice carrying a faulty gene designed to stop them reproducing can remove an entire population of 50,000, a new study shows, paving the way for new eradication efforts.
A young breast-cancer patient in her home. Fototip/Shutterstock

Is cancer just a question of ‘bad luck’?

Two US researchers have traced the majority of cancers to DNA replication errors during our natural cell replacement. Their finding asks for a renewed inquiry into the role of “chance” in cancer.

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