by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Food poisoning is an ordeal. The body empties itself, with no respite, until nothing is left - neither vitality in you nor food in your system. It is less a single food item you have ingested which causes the unpleasant experience than the poison that was lurking in the smoked salmon, or the oyster, or the steak tartare you helped yourself to. Though we tend to curse our system when it happens, we should in fact be encouraging it. Why? Because it has sensed an ingested toxin that could be harmful to us. The fastest and most effective way of dealing with the toxin is to rid us of everything we have eaten. It so happens that a similar phenomenon occurs in the majority of pregnant women. During the first months of pregnancy, nausea hits many women the moment they rise in the morning or smell certain foods, or drink, during the course of the day. Though disagreeable to say the least, it is thought to be both for the mother's and the developing child's good. Indeed, morning sickness, as it is commonly known, could be linked to the potential ingestion of detrimental toxins, and to the presence of a protein known as GDF15.

Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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A little bit of praise!

“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.

Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.

I would highly recommend your articles as a necessary reading in undergrad classes to get students inspired about the various avenues of research.”

— Rohan Chaubal, Senior Researcher in Genomics

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