» Home > In the News


17 August 2018

Sent in by Robert. An interesting post at https://crev.info/2018/08/one-wrong-handed-amino-acid-can-cause-vertigo/ … yes, one amino acid gone awry can cause vertigo. How does this happen? It is down to chirality – how life ended up with one handed (chiral) building blocks such as amino acids and sugars, when both are just as likely to form by the laws of physics. The author claims it is an unsolved mystery in the study of life sciences – because proteins cannot work without 100 per cent one handed. Electricity may of course play an undefined role.

Researchers from McGill University say chirality switching in biomineral structures is one reason why some people develop vertigo – unable to keep their balance. It seems we all have little rock crystals in vestibules (sacs) within our inner ears – otoconia. These crystals are basically rocks constructed by 'proteins that guide the biomineralisation process'. When otoconia grow correctly they spiral in a specific direction. Scientists found that a single wrong handed amino acid can make them spiral the opposite way, leading to failure in the sense of balance.

   … The study was published in Science Advances and provides details on how the crystals grow. The author notes that spirals can switch chirals not just in the ears of humans but in snail shells that on rare occasions spiral in the opposite direction to normal.

Skip to content