February 19, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

A New Blood Component Revealed

 

The Human Body Gets More Complex as Research Progresses.
Concurrently, Evolution Appears More Impossible.

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

The goal of evolution is to explain the natural world and, specifically, humans as being ‘created’ purely as a result of time, chance, the outworking of natural law, and the effects of mutations. In Darwin’s day this task was difficult, but in our day it is far more difficult because new research reveals the human body is far more complex than Darwin ever imagined, or ever could imagine. In his day we had a good grasp of human gross anatomy, but knew close to nothing about microscopic anatomy, the cell, and the workings of the genome or the details of the body organs such as the endocrine system. The cell alone is now acknowledged as the most complex machine in the entire universe.

Even the components of blood were not yet understood in 1859, and this is why blood transfusions often failed because the ABO system was not understood then. In 1901, Karl Landsteiner documented that several blood types existed, and this was the main problem in transfusion rejection. For his work, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930. Also in 1859, Darwin knew almost nothing about the laws of genetics. In 1865, Gregor Mendel documented his discovery that biological inheritance follows definite rules which he was able to demonstrate with experiments on pea plants.

Proteins are coded by triplet codons of DNA “letters” A, C, T, and G. (Illustra Media)

Understanding those rules of genetics has taken another century. In 1911, almost 30 years after Darwin died, Thomas Hunt Morgan proposed that genes are arranged in a line on the chromosomes. His work, combined with the Hershey-Chase experiment and Chargaff’s data on nucleotides, finally persuaded biologists that DNA is the genetic material, not protein which was the previous belief. The rules for transcribing DNA to build protein were not understood, even at a basic level, until in 1953, after examining Rosalind Franklin’s unpublished data, James D. Watson and Francis Crick published the double-helix structure for DNA. This paper showed one sugar-phosphate backbone running in the opposite direction to the other side, and the four DNA bases were located in the middle of these two sugar-phosphate backbone rungs, forming a code of nucleotides. They further suggested a mechanism by which the DNA molecule can replicate itself and function to accurately transmit genetic information in the form of a code of precisely sequenced nucleotides that get transcribed then translated into another code of amino acids. It was only in 1960 that John Kendrew described the structure of myoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in muscle. The structure of many more proteins followed. In 1990, French Anderson, et al., performed the first approved gene therapy on a human patient.

Growth of Knowledge

Red blood cells circulate through arteries, capillaries, and veins.

Growth of scientific knowledge has increased exponentially. Studies estimated that, until the year 1900, human knowledge doubled only approximately every century. By 1950, human knowledge doubled every 25 years, and in the year 2000, human knowledge doubled every year. Now, the sum total of human knowledge is estimated to double almost every day.[1] Among of thousands of examples is blood. Surely in 2020 we have a good understanding of blood, didn’t we? It’s an organ we have been studying since 1901 when Karl Landsteiner documented that several types exist. Maybe, however, we do not know as much as we thought. A major discovery was announced on January 23:

Does the blood we thought to know so well contain elements that had been undetectable until now? The answer is yes, according to a team of researchers which has revealed the presence of whole functional mitochondria in the blood circulation. The discovery may deepen our knowledge of physiology and open up new avenues for treatment.[2]

Mitochondria are organelles that exist in all eukaryotic cells. Called the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondrion plays a major role in converting energy in food to charge adenosine diphosphate (ADP) into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main source of energy used in the cell. Charging ADP into ATP is similar to pushing a dart into a dart gun and then firing it. ATP Synthase continually pumps out ATP molecules, but each one discharges as a unit to power a molecular machine. Some machines require more than one ATP to function. Mitochondria possess their own genome that is separate from the one contained in the cell nucleus. Mitochondrial DNA consists of 37 genes that are transmitted solely by the mother to both males and females.

An Exciting New Discovery

It was known that mitochondria are found outside of cells in the form of fragments encapsulated within microvesicles. Under certain limited conditions, blood platelets release intact mitochondria into the extracellular space. Researchers from Université de Montpellier (in southeast France) have “now revolutionized knowledge of this organelle by revealing that whole functioning extracellular mitochondria are in fact found in the bloodstream.” Specifically, the researchers learned from earlier research that “the plasma of a healthy individual contains up to 50,000 times more mitochondrial DNA than nuclear DNA.” From this discovery, they

hypothesized that for it to be detectable and quantifiable in the blood in this manner, the mitochondrial DNA had to be protected by a structure of sufficient stability. In order to identify such a structure, plasma samples from around 100 individuals were analyzed.[3]

They demonstrated, for the first time, that primary and tumor cultured cells secreted mitochondria, specifically full-length mitochondrial DNA (0.22 mm long) containing specific mitochondrial membrane proteins. Furthermore, “Oxygen consumption analysis revealed that these mitochondria are respiratory competent,”[4] meaning that they are working as powerhouses. There’s power in the blood!

The authors speculated on the role of these mitochondria, thinking they may have a signaling role which could be important for early detection of cancer and other diseases. The observation made by another study, noted above, indicates that the plasma of a healthy individual contains up to an amazing 50,000 times more mitochondrial DNA than nuclear DNA. To be detectable and quantifiable in the blood serum, the mitochondrial DNA must be protected by a stable structure.[5]

Figure 1. Using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) the researchers were able to image the newly-found extracellular mitochondrial carriers.

The magnitude of this finding can be compared to living in a large house for 50 years and then discovering that the floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the library is connected to full-length door with hinges, and the entire unit moves. When the bookcase is pulled out, it reveals a large room the owners never knew was there! In the room was found another library, this time of very old valuable rare books and manuscripts!

The critical question is “what is the role of these intact, circulating, extra-cellular and cell-free mitochondria in the body?”[6] Several functions have been proposed. It may turn out that these free-living mitochondria have a critical role to play in life. These organelles have been there all along as we have been peering through our microscopes for the past century, looking at blood for diagnostic as well as research purposes.

Some Possible Functions for These Free-Living Mitochondria

The structure of the mitochondrial DNA is similar to bacterial DNA, a fact that inspired the theory of endosymbiosis developed by the late Lynn Margulis (see 16 Feb 2016). Their shape implies that they have the ability to induce immune and inflammatory responses. Given this theory, the researchers hypothesize that these circulating mitochondria could be involved in many physiological and/or pathological processes requiring communication between the cells, such as involved in inflammation systems.

Studies have demonstrated certain cells can transfer mitochondria among themselves. Extracellular mitochondria may perform various messenger tasks for the entire body.[7] They also may supply energy to various structures in the blood. Moving back to our analogy, this mitochondria discovery is more like finding, not just a room behind the bookcase, but an entire suite that was there all along. When discovered, we have to ask ourselves, ”How come I didn’t notice this suite, that was always there, before now?”

Summary

As with the discovery of the structure of DNA, this single study has opened up an entirely new area of research that no doubt will to lead to hundreds of papers and several new breakthroughs in the area of cell biology, disease, mitochondrial function and the role and function of blood. The growth in knowledge of biology—particularly cell biology—discovered since the time of Darwin helps us to fathom the degree of ignorance of biology at the time in which the theory of evolution was formulated. Scientists back then knew only a very small fraction of what we know today. If Darwin were alive now, would he still defend his theory of evolution? Would he have come up with it at all if he lived in the 21st century?

As Darwin himself conceded: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”[8] Since 1859, hundreds of examples have been discovered that meet this challenge. They include every organ in the body, including blood and the organelles in the cells.  These discoveries present a massive roadblock in the way of the long outdated, simplistic and essentially-falsified Darwinian explanations.[9]

References

[1] Tim Sandle, “Knowledge doubles almost every day, and it’s set to increase.” Digital Journal, Nov 23, 2019.
[2] Press release from INSERM, “A new blood component revealed.” Science Daily, January 23, 2020.
[3] A new blood component revealed. Science Daily, January 23, 2020.
[4] Dache, et al. Blood contains circulating cell‐free respiratory competent mitochondria. The FASEB Journal, January 19,2020. DOI: 10.1096/fj.201901917RR.
[5] A new blood component revealed. Science Daily, January 23, 2020.
[6] Dache, et al., 2020, p. 11.
[7] A new blood component revealed. Science Daily, January 23, 2020.
[8] Darwin, Charles. 1872. On the Origin of Species, 6th Edition, Chapter 6, London, UK: John Murray, p. 146.
[9] Denton, Michael J. 2016. Evolution: Still A Theory in Crisis. Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press, p. 136.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

 

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