Researchers have developed new techniques to track the mobilization of jumping genes. They found that during a particular period of egg development, a group of jumping-genes called retrotransposons hijacks special cells called nurse cells that nurture the developing eggs. These jumping genes use nurse cells to produce invasive material (copies of themselves called virus-like particles) that move into a nearby egg and then mobilize into the egg’s DNA driving evolution, and causing disease.
Carnegie co-author Zhao Zhang explained: “We were very surprised that the these jumping genes barely moved in stem cells that produce developing egg cells, possibly because the stem cells would only have two copies of the genome for these jumping genes to use. Instead, these moving elements used the supporting nurse cells, which could provide up to thousands copies of the genome per cell, as factories to massively manufacture virus-like particles capable of integration. However, they didn’t integrate into nurse cells where they were produced. Rather, they waited while they were transported into an interconnected egg cell, and then added hundreds, if not thousands, of new copies of themselves into the egg DNA. Our research shows how parasitic genetic elements can time their activity and distinguish between different cell types to robustly propagate to drive evolutionary change and cause disease.”
A reader writes to draw our attention to “Our research shows how parasitic genetic elements can time their activity and distinguish between different cell types to robustly propagate to drive evolutionary change and cause disease” and he comments, “This does not sound like a random process. It sounds like Shapiro’s “natural genetic engineering,” which is teleological.”
He is referring to the explicitly non-Darwinian approach to evolution pioneered by James Shapiro. See Natural genetic engineering? Natural popcorn? Or something more important?:
If experiments show that cells can make distinct appropriate NGE responses to different adaptive challenges occurs, we need to figure out how they do so. This almost certainly would prove to be more than a strictly mechanical process. How do cells carry out their computations to make useful goal-oriented responses? A successful answer to that question will certainly involve cybernetics. If such investigations take evolution science into areas that are more than strictly material, so be it. As long as we stay within the realm of natural processes, there are no boundaries on what science can address. More.
But then what does Dr. Shapiro mean by “natural” processes, as opposed to “more than strictly material” ones, as above? If the universe features governing intelligences, their actions would be natural, though not “strictly material” (or material at all).
The media release does not explain how, exactly, the jumping genes drive evolutionary change but if they do, it sounds like directed change for a purpose, not that anyone wants to discuss that.
“Since Carnegie’s Barbara McClintock made the seminal contribution of discovering the jumping genes more than six decades ago, we have not been able to understand how they mobilize as animals prepare for their next generation. Now the junior research group lead by our Staff Associate, Zhao Zhang, has made an important step toward solving this long-standing puzzle,” remarked Yixian Zheng, the director of Carnegie’s Department of Embryology. Carnegie Institution for Science. (2018, July 26). How do jumping genes cause disease, drive evolution?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180726162741.htm
See also: Horizontal gene transfer from tunicates helps beetles against fungus As noted re an earlier story about bats, tThe finding also suggests that Darwinian claims about natural selection producing evolutionary changes should be tested against the possibility that the change was in fact caused by horizontal gene transfer.
Bats “steal” genes from ebola-related virus which serve an as-yet-unknown function in the bat
Researchers: Cross species transfer has been “an important driver of evolution”
Osaka group structuralist, 97, publishes new book Suzan Mazur: In the section “Periodicity of Plant Carnivory,” Lima-de-Faria makes the argument that “carnivory evolved independently on at least ten separate occasions,” that the current genera belong to 12 families, and that there are 300 carnivorous species worldwide!”