Snapshot Issue 53 March 2009

lactase

It cannot have always been easy to be the wife of Charles Darwin. Besides spending hours in his study elaborating his theory of evolution, Mr. Darwin was never very well. Ever since his return from his voyage on H.M.S Beagle in 1836, he suffered from numerous ailments such as bouts of vomiting, headaches, eczema, flatulence, heart palpitations, depression and joint pains – to name a few. Throughout his life, he sought advice from many doctors who prescribed diets to follow and medicine to swallow.

The cause of Charles Darwin’s ill-health has intrigued many a researcher – besides Darwin himself who kept a Diary of Health. Some have believed that his troubles were mainly psychosomatic, whilst others have suggested causes such as heart disease, chronic neuroasthenia, a duodenal ulcer or pigeon allergy. Recently, scientists suggested that Charles Darwin suffered from lactose intolerance. Indeed, all of his symptoms seem to match such a condition. What’s more, lactose intolerance can be inherited and many members of the Darwin family were prone to similar troubles.

Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of lactase enzyme in the intestine. Lactase splits lactose into galactose and glucose, thus making it digestible. Tolerance to lactose is usually lost in humans after weaning. However, there has been a net tendency to preserve this faculty, especially in populations of the Northern hemisphere where dairy farming became popular about 10’000 years ago. Is this really what Darwin suffered from? Perhaps. One way to find out would be to carry out a test on his DNA. The thing is: he’s not with us anymore. But he may have left a telltale hair or something in one of his notebooks…

Lactase, Homo sapiens (Human) P09848

L'édition française de cette chronique est disponible dans l'Instantanés du mois de Prolune.

Need to reference this article ? Please use this link:
<http://web.expasy.org/spotlight/snapshots/053/>

Comments

Post a comment





Guidelines

Please refrain from off-topic banter and personal attacks. Your comment may be edited or removed at the discretion of Protein Spotlight editors. Our goal is not to stifle debate but to keep it relevant.

No HTML tags allowed. If you wish to specify a link to another site, write it in full without any kind of formating and it shall appear live automagically.




Contribute

Interested in writing for Protein Spotlight? Do you have an idea for an article? Describe it in two or three sentences and use our Contact page to send it to us.

Visitors since September 14th, 2010:

vBulletin stats