Cell Image of the Month – MCM6


In 2017, February 28th will be the day that in Sweden is known as "Fettisdagen", (lit. "Fat Tuesday"), in other countries known as "Mardi Gras", "Faschingsdienstag" or "Shrove Tuesday". This day was originally celebrated in the Christian tradition as the last day of a three day feast to prepare for the forty day long fasting period before Easter. Today it has been popularized and in many places around the world this day is now known for its carnivals.

In Sweden together with some other northern European countries we like to eat "semlor" on Fat Tuesday. A swedish "semla" is a sweet bun made of wheat, with the top cut off, served with almond paste and whipped cream under the repositioned top.

This brings us the image of this week. As whipped cream is an essential part of the swedish "semla", unfortunately around 65% of us might not be able to enjoy this wonderful dish, due to being lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance is the result of a lack of the enzyme lactase in the small intestines and leads to a decreased ability to digest lactose, a condition which should not be confused with milk allergy. Lactose that is not digested in the small intestine must continue to the colon where bacteria will metabolise the lactose which creates large amounts of gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

It´s the lactase gene (LCT) that codes for the lactase enzyme. The LCT gene is transcriptionally regulated by the MCM6 gene, where a mutation in some humans keeps the LCT gene turned on, producing lactase, even after the breastfeeding period for infants. In adults without the mutation, lactase production is normally decreased compared to infancy and some people will then experience lactose intolerance.

Luckily there are lactose free alternatives to regular whipped cream, so if you can´t have a readymade semla from the bakery, you can always bake and make one at home. Enjoy!