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Biotech Science

Scientists Discover Proteins Controlling Evolution 436

Khemisty writes "Evolutionary changes are supposed to take place gradually and randomly, under pressure from natural selection. But a team of Princeton scientists investigating a group of proteins that help cells burn energy stumbled across evidence that this is not how evolution works. In fact, their discovery could revolutionize the way we understand evolutionary processes. They have evidence that organisms actually have the ability to control their own evolution."
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Scientists Discover Proteins Controlling Evolution

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  • Homeostasis (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:18PM (#25742437) Homepage Journal
    RTFA and you'll see that the Princeton boys have discovered homeostasis [] in gene expression. The hyperbolic rhetoric surrounding their discovery would be more justified if they had actually found something that altered the haploid genetic information of gametes in a homeostatic fashion. And they're insulting to Darwin when they say that he thought that evolution was "totally random". That's like the argument some of the more idiotic creationists make when they talk about taking a bunch of watch parts, shaking them up in a bag and assembling a watch.
  • Uummmmmm, no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:18PM (#25742439)

    This was found in the electron transport chain, which occurs in the mitochondria, which have their own DNA [] (circular DNA to be precise). The cell is repairing damaged DNA, the cell does this naturally. It is a defense mechanism and does not signal that the cell is actively controlling its evolution. This correction of the damage will NOT be passed on to the next generation of offspring unless it occurs in the egg or sperm cells (and if it is the mitochondria the sperm cells will also have nothing to do with it as all our mitochondria are inherited by our mother's egg cells). This seems to me to be a headline grabber with little to no actual relevance to the research within.

  • old news and a link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kandenshi ( 832555 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:20PM (#25742451)

    PZ Myers had a bit of commentary on this news on his blog, pharyngula.

    I'd encourage everyone here to read the post [], as well as some of the comments from readers below. The press release is self-contradictory, and extremely vague in terms of details. I'm not expecting too much, but like PZ, I'll give the actual paper a read whenever I can find it.

    Who knows, maybe they've found something truly revolutionary... but you can't tell from the press clipping. Ask yourself how often you've seen something science related in the paper, then found out that it bears very little resemblence to reality when you go to read the actual scientist's research papers on the subject? :P

  • by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:04AM (#25742765) Homepage Journal

    When I was in school they taught us there were two theories of evolution: Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest, and some nutcase's theory that creatures adapt to their environment and pass those changes down to their children. For example, giraffes stretched their necks to reach food and because they stretched their necks that characteristic was passed down to their children. Sure, the school was just trying to discredit Darwin, but now you're telling me that nutcase's theory has merit?

    You're thinking of Lamarckian evolution [], which is completely unrelated to Wallace's conjecture discussed in the article and remains well-refuted to this day. Lamarckism was supplanted by Darwin's theory of natural selection.

  • by slashnot007 ( 576103 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:17AM (#25742841)

    The article says the proteins were correcting any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations, constantly restoring the chain to working order. If this is true I do not expect to see larger penises as the result. In fact, given the brain-penis balance displayed by your post the proteins should be working to reduce your penis size.

    While your post is humorous, the funny thing is the original poster had a point. If the only thing keeping my penis small is a feedback loop, then it should not be too hard to create a drug that interrupts that feedback loop. The downside of course is that still does not create the desired mutation in me. Nor even in my children since eggs are all created at a young age.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:17AM (#25743525) Journal
    Agreed, and what's this in the summary about evolution progressing "smoothly". I belive that the late S.J. Gould demonstrated that it actually proceeds in spurts or maybe it was Dawkins. Regardless of who's idea it was it has been known for quite a while that evolution is not a nice smmoth curve.

    Besides that, the concept of "species" is just an abitrary way of cataloging life that took off when the English started cataloging everything they could find, live or dead. Today there is far more interest in figuring out how cells self-oraginse over time. Oddly enough the disipline of 'network analysis' can be used to track how various cells/molecules interact. One such analysis conducted at Harvard produced this awsome animation [] showing the goings on inside an immune cell as it homes in on it's target (motion slowed down 2-3 orders of magnitute).
  • by patch0 ( 1339585 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:58AM (#25744285) Homepage

    This is known as "punctuated equilibrium", and is generally accepted as the standard evolutionary model.

    Actually no it isn't, most evolutionary biologists I know are less than impressed with the idea. Most evolutionary biologists would probably tell you that the rate of evolution varies greatly and that apparent evolutionary stasis (the hallmark of punctuated equilibrium) is probably just a wrinkle in the fossil record.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:22PM (#25748745) Journal

    >The point of all that junk DNA is something that we have not fully figured out yet. It has a point, we'll figure it out, along with all the other things we don't yet know.

    Some of that junk is, indeed, just junk -- it's crap we (as a species, and even across all mammals or all vertebrates) picked up from retroviruses millions of years ago, just long repeats of viral genomes.
    The tricky bit is that some of *that* stuff we've started to use. Mitochondria, themselves, are a case study. They were originally parasites, essentially, much like chlamydia or other obligate intracellular bacterial infections are. Then they became commensal, then symbiotic, and now they're completely necessary for aerobic metabolism, the reason multicellular organisms can survive.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer