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Simplest Microbes More Complex than Thought

The smallest, simplest cells are prokaryotes.  These are the bacteria and archaea that lack a nucleus and are usually considered primitive.  Scientists are finding, though, that they know many of the same tricks as the more complex nucleus-bearing eukaryotes.     PhysOrg reported that a species of Mycoplasma, among the smallest independent-living bacteria, is more […]

“Messy” Genomes: Did They Evolve?

The genomes of most eukaryotes are riddled with introns – intragenic regions – that have to be cut out by sophisticated DNA-transcribing machinery so that the true gene sections (called exons) can be spliced together.  Introns can vary from 20 base pairs to over 500,000 – significantly impacting the energy required to duplicate the genome.  […]

How One Bright Young Scientist Challenged the Junk-DNA Paradigm

A young snowboarder turned to science and turned the consensus on its head.  PhysOrg, in “Turning trash to treasure,” told the story of John Rinn (Harvard Medical School), who challenged the paradigm of “junk DNA” and discovered a new class of functional molecules: lincRNAs (large intervening non-coding RNA).  He found important functional molecules “in a […]

Polar Bears and Grizzlies Hybridize

What do you get when you cross a polar bear with a grizzly bear?  It’s not a joke; look at the BBC News and see.  You get bears with mixed shades of fur and a blend of characteristics.  Live Science also commented on the BBC report.     Scientists have known that these species can […]

Inefficiency Made You Complex

Remember the old Darwinian story?  Slight variations that prove beneficial are naturally selected when they help an organism adapt to its environment.  Wrong.  According to Ariel Fernandez of Rice University, we humans are complex because natural selection is inefficient.  He said, “the origins of some key aspects of the evolution of complexity may have their […]

DNA Organization Is Fractal

How would you pack spaghetti in a basketball (07/28/2004) such that you could get to any strand quickly?  You might try the “fractal globule” method.  You form little knots, or globules, on each strand.  These become like beads on a string.  Now you fold the beads into globules, and then fold those into higher-level globules.  […]

Emergence of Genetic Code Touted

Most origin-of-life researchers have acknowledged the extreme improbability of the genetic code arising by chance.  Their approaches to get around this problem have varied considerably since the Miller experiment succeeded in generating a few amino acids.  Despite the celebrations that 1953 experiment generated (05/02/2003), it did not even begin to approach the problem of solving […]

Return of the Peppered Mice

Slight changes in the coat color of deer mice is the latest triumph of evolutionary theory, if we are to believe the BBC News and New Scientist.   The BBC announced, without apologies to Jonathan Wells, that “A tiny pale deer mouse living on a sand dune in Nebraska looks set to become an icon of […]

DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought

One of the most remarkable molecular machines in your body, the ribosome, is coming to light, nanometer by nanometer, as scientists find new ways to peer into the inner workings of the “black box.”     Science Daily reported on work at Berkeley that has given the clearest imagery yet.  “Ribosomes, which number in the […]

Did Evolution Create Genetic Proofreading?

Protein manufacture in the cell is such a critical operation, there are numerous error-checking mechanisms the cell uses to get it right.  One of the most amazing is the careful association of DNA codons with amino acids, and the “proofreading” or “spell checking” that ensures fidelity.  How could spell checking evolve?     Science Daily […]

Epigenetics Rising in Consciousness of Geneticists, Embryologists

The old story of genetics was that all the information is in genes, and when sperm and egg unite, it’s only the combination of genes from parents that affect the offspring.  That view has been under challenge for years now as geneticists and embryologists find more and more evidence for additional heritable factors that affect […]

Selfish Gene Mutates, Dies a Metaphorical Death

Richard Dawkins proposed in his book The Selfish Gene that a gene, being the target of natural selection and unit of replication, is the entity most likely to get passed on to posterity; as such, it is “selfish” in that the rest of the organism is really only incidental to its immortality.  Dawkins expanded this […]

Biological Big Bang: Another Explosion at the Dawn of Life

Eugene Koonin and two friends from the NIH went tree-hunting.  They examined almost 7,000 genomes of prokaryotes.  They found trees all right – a whole forest of them.  They even found 102 NUTs (nearly universal trees) in the forest.  Unfortunately, it’s not what they wanted to find: a single universal tree of life that Darwin’s […]

Systems Biology Oddly Silent About Darwin

Two papers on the rise of “systems biology” appeared in Nature last week.  Both are astounded by the complexity of the cell, but neither had anything to say about evolution, Darwin, or phylogeny – mildly surprising when the proponents of evolution keep saying that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” […]

Warning: Do NOT Mutate This Protein Complex

In each cell of your body there is a complex of 8 or more proteins bound together called the BBSome.  This protein complex, discovered in 2007, should not be disturbed.  Here’s what happens when it mutates: “A homozygous mutation in any BBSome subunit (except BBIP10) will make you blind, obese and deaf, will obliterate your […]
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