The proponents of intelligent design believe that chance and selection are too casual and slow to allow complex new properties to arise. In particular, they argue that the intermediate steps in shuffling the genes to make something new are likely to scramble the existing system and be bad for the organism ("half an eye is bad for you").
The work, directed by Mark Isalan, leader of the group Gene Network Engineering and Luis Serrano, coordinator of the research programme Systems Biology and leader of the group Design of Biological Systems, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, will be published tomorrow in the prestigious magazine Nature.
Although it’s true that it seems incredible that organisms could be able to face extreme mutation processes and gene reorganization, Isalan et al. show just that. This work describes a new method that links information networks in the genome of the bacterium Escherichia coli that are not usually communicating with each other. Not only do most of the bacteria survive with the new transcription networks, but some gain new properties that allow them to do better than the original bacteria in extreme conditions. For example, some survive better at 50°C or have a longer lifespan after growing to maturity.
Organisms appear to have an innate capacity to allow evolution. This new and revolutionary methodology opens the door to a much more rapid evolution that offers multiple new phenotypes or properties.
This will have useful applications in biotechnology, for example in the production of biofuel from more efficient microorgansims. Ultimately, evolving cellular gene networks may allow the production of new properties in a wide variety of cells, with profound implications for human health.
Gloria Lligadas | alfa
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