The smallest of things can cause devastation. A word can hurt deeply. Distraction can create an accident. A spark can set off a fire. In the world of molecular biology, "small" rules. Life itself thrives on an intricate and very fragile harmony perpetuated by myriads of tiny molecules. And when something goes wrong, when a molecule changes its habits, it can create havoc.
A few examples: cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes, to name but four. Blood transfusion - and even more so its effects - also depends on very small regions which themselves belong to very small molecules on the surface of each of our red blood cells. Pour the wrong kind of blood into someone, and you are in for serious complications. We all belong to a certain blood type, or group. As a consequence, we can only receive certain types of blood. Most of us have relatively common types and finding donors is usually not a problem. However, some people belong to very rare blood types, thus making blood transfusion a particularly delicate task. One of these types is known as Vel-negative. And after 60 years of scientific bafflement, it has finally been pinned down to a protein named SMIM1. Read more