Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Are You a Mutant?

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Vsauce, Im Jake and Ive been thinking a lot about mutation, not just because of

X-Men Apocalypse coming out but because I am a mutant...well at least part of me is.

Cancer is a mutation of a cell, specifically the DNA inside the cell is damaged. That cell

doesnt stop dividing and growing and growing, faster and faster until we get a lump of cancer

cells like this, a tumor, my tumor. Unfortunately it didnt lead to me having any enhanced

special abilities like mutations do in the world of X-Men. But that didnt stop me

from trying, I had to go to 8 weeks of radiation therapy, and if Ive learned anything from

comics, that exposure to radiation should have at least given me some sort of physically

mutated power. It didnt; but what I did find interesting is that we use radiation

to cure cancer, yet radiation can also cause it.

Non-Ionizing radiation like infrared, microwave or radio waves dont cause tissue damage

but ionizing radiation: gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet light can and when it does,

it damages DNA. Sometimes the damage is repaired and nothing changes. Other times the damage

is not repaired and the damaged cell dies. Occasionally, the damage is not repaired but

the cell lives on with mutated DNA. The aim of radiation therapy is to expose just the

affected area to so much radiation, about 10,000 times the normal amount, that it kills

every cell.

Since you started watching this video youve had at least 7 instances of DNA damage and

by the end of the day youll have had over 10,000. The good news is that your cells usually

fixes it, if the cell just doesnt die first. But mutations happen all the time. A human

has an average of 60 at birth and a lot of them developed over centuries: For example,

originally we all had brown eyes. Six to ten thousand years ago, a genetic mutation caused

one person to have blue eyes. And theyre the one common ancestor for everyone with

blue eyes today. The truth is we are all mutants, however some are more mutant than others.

Timothy Dreyer has incredibly dense bones due to a disease called Sclerosteosis. Because

of a specific mutation in the sclerostin gene, Timothy and around 100 other people have such

thick bones that out of 60 patients surveyed, none had ever broken one despite living normal

active lives, and one had even been hit by a car.

Then you have someone like Michel Lotito, who weve talked about before, that was

able to eat things like 18 bikes, 15 shopping carts, 7 televisions and 1 Cessna airplane.

This was because of two things: one a disease he had called Pica where you have the urge

to eat inedible objects and because of a mutation his stomach lining was twice as thick as an

average persons.

But lets talk about pain, eating something like a bicycle would probably hurt going down

even if broken into small pieces. And thats where the mutation CIP comes in: Congenital

insensitivity to pain.

As the name suggests, it is a condition where the person can not feel physical pain. There

is a fantastic New York Times article about a girl named Ashlyn Blocker who has CIP and

it chronicles how she and her family live with it. They talk about how Ashlyn dropped

a spoon into a pot of boiling water and then she stuck her hand in to retrieve it. She

didnt feel anything but just because you cant feel it, doesnt mean it wont

cause permanent damage. For example take Steven Pete who discusses how his parents discovered

he had it: Lets imagine something, lets imagine we cant feel pain. Im sure it

is a fantasy that most of us have had before but think about what it would actually be like.

Steven Pete has done so much damage to his left leg without knowing, that he cant

walk properly anymore. Or what if you had an internal injury? How would you ever know?

Timothy Dreyer might never break a bone because of sclerosteosis, but the increased pressure

on the skull could cause instantaneous death.

And there are plenty of other mutations that on the surface might seem like a superpower,

like having incredible height similar to the almost 9ft tall Robert Wadlow, or the mutation

that causes EhlersDanlos syndrome which gives your skin hyperelasticity. But all of

these come with a trade off. In Robert Wadlows case, his circulatory system couldnt sustain

his ever increasing height and he died when he was 22.

But there is some good that comes from these mutations: by looking at the genetics of people

with sclerosteosis, doctors are trying to create a drug that increases bone growth to

help patients that have osteoporosis - where their bones become brittle and fragile. And

with CIP, researchers are trying to figure out a way to use this mutation as a painkiller.

I think Steven Pete says it best

And we tend to say that someone is a superhero or that someone is special because they can

run faster, jump higher or swim longer than an average person. But then you have people

like Steven Pete, or Timothy Dreyer, or the people I saw every today at the cancer center,

who have such incredible strength, the fact that they continue to push and continue to

live even with such immense odds, the fact that they hope that what they face, what they

live with, might help others, is incredible, is super. To take the analogy one step further,

these people with the help of doctors, are using their super power to help defeat villains

like osteoporosis or chronic pain.

In pop culture we call mutants super heroes. And I think in real life, these people are

no different. And as always, thanks for watching.

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