Five Feet Apart

By: Khushi Gupta

About a little over a year ago, the movie 5 Feet Apart was released. A tale of two people forbidden to fall in love due to a serious medical condition: Cystic Fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis, or CF for short, is a hereditary disease which affects the lungs and digestive system, causing lung infections and limiting the ability to breathe over time. People with CF have a mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, causing the CFTR protein to be misfunctional.

Proteins are one of the four essential micromolecules (the other three are carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acid) and are made up of amino acids that are held together by chemical bonds. Protein molecules can fold up into shapes which affect its function.

Protein synthesis, or the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, is a process which bodies go through in order to create proteins based on information in the DNA. There are three main steps for protein synthesis: transcription, translation, and trafficking. Transcription takes information from the nucleus and makes a message that occurs in the nucleus. The DNA strands are unzipped and base-paired with mRNA, meaning that the information is now a message in the mRNA. It then leaves the nucleus, ending the process of transcription. Translation is turning the message into the product as it connects with tRNA and the amino acids form bonds. Once complete, the protein moves through the cell to where it needs to be. This is known as trafficking. In the case of the CFTR protein, it goes to the surface of the cell and functions as a chlorine channel, helping to maintain the right balance of fluid in airways. People with CF have a mutation in their DNA, which affects the chlorine channel, making it unable to maintain the balance.

Mutations are changes to DNA strands that lead to variations that occur randomly. Variations are different traits within a population or species. There are three types of mutations that can occur: substitution, insertion, and deletion. All three deal with nucleotides or a basic structural unit of nucleic acids. These mutations change the structure of the protein and can affect its function.

Although CF is a rare disease, there can be times when they are multiple people with it in close vicinity. Studies have shown that people with CF are at a higher risk of spreading particular germs with others that have the same disease (cross infection). For this reason, it is essential that people with CF must stay away from others with this, at a minimum of 5 feet.

Educational Content:

Q: What are the three main steps of protein synthesis?

A: The three main steps are transcription, translation, and trafficking.

Q: What channel is affected by the mutation in the CFTR protein?

A: A chlorine channel


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