Sunday, December 25, 2011

MicroRNA Exchange Between Cells Found to be Key Evolutionary Innovation

We recently reported the thought-provoking findings that our genes are not only regulated by our own microRNA—those small snippets of transcribed DNA which were often considered to be useless junk—they are also regulated by the microRNA in the food we eat. In other words, food not only contains carbohydrates, proteins, fat, minerals, vitamins and so forth, it also contains information—in the form of these regulatory snippets of miRNA—which regulate our gene production.

In other research microRNA has also been found to move between cells, thus providing a mechanism for one cell to influence the operations within neighboring cells. This helps to explain how the cells can differentiate in a growing embryo according to their position within the embryo. As one scientist explained:

This study provides important insight into how cells communicate positional information to orchestrate the complex process of tissue and organ development.

Add this complex process of microRNA exchange to the list of ways cells can communicate and influence each other via chemical signals. And as with so many of the other mechanisms, microRNA exchange is thought, now that it has been discovered, to have been important in evolution. As one evolutionist explained, there are reasons to think it was key in the evolutionary transition from single-celled algae to land plants.

This evolutionary speculation is yet another example of the monumental levels of serendipity in evolutionary theory. In this case, evolution happened to create DNA, DNA transcription, microRNA regulation, and microRNA transfer mechanisms between cells, only to find that it was the perfect set up for making the transition from single-celled algae to land plants.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

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