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updated: June 24, 2022


A mutation is a change in the DNA sequence of an organism. Mutations can result from errors in DNA replication during cell division, exposure to mutagens or a viral infection. Germline mutations (that occur in eggs and sperm) can be passed on to offspring, while somatic mutations (that occur in body cells) are not passed on.



Mutation has been the source of many Hollywood movies, but it's really a simple process of a mistake made in a DNA sequence as it's being copied. Some of that's just the background noise that DNA copying is not perfect, and we should be glad of that or evolution couldn't operate. But mutation can also be induced by things like radiation or carcinogens in a way that can increase the risk of cancers or birth defects. But it's pretty simple; it's basically an induced misspelling of the DNA sequence. That's a mutation.