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If DNA really rules, why did THIS happen?


A reader writes to offer (not a joke) information about a most revealing experiment, with respect to what DNA can and can’t do: Researchers implanted human embryonic neuronal cells into a mouse embryo. Mouse and human neurons have distinct morphologies (shapes). Because the human neurons feature human DNA, they should be easy to identify.

Which raises a question: Would the human neurons implanted in developing mouse brain have a mouse or a human morphology?

Well, the answer is, the human neurons had a mouse morphology. They could be distinguished from the mouse ones only by their human genetic markers.

If DNA really ruled, we would expect a human morphology. (Abstract follows.)

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Meanwhile, can someone get hold of that guy, Walter Gilbert? Remember this?:

As geneticist Walter Gilbert put it, understanding our genetic composition is the ultimate answer to the commandment “know thyself.” Gilbert introduces his lectures on gene sequencing by pulling a compact disk from his pocket and announcing to his audience, “This is you.”* More.

Like, he should hear this stuff. Also, whither the selfish gene?

Abstract Human embryonic stem cells are pluripotent entities, theoretically capable of generating a whole-body spectrum of distinct cell types. However, differentiation of these cells has been observed only in culture or during teratoma formation. Our results show that human embryonic stem cells implanted in the brain ventricles of embryonic mice can differentiate into functional neural lineages and generate mature, active human neurons that successfully integrate into the adult mouse forebrain. Moreover, this study reveals the conservation and recognition of common signals for neural differentiation throughout mammalian evolution. The chimeric model will permit the study of human neural development in a live environment, paving the way for the generation of new models of human neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. The model also has the potential to speed up the screening process for therapeutic drugs. (full text follows – Alysson R. Muotri, Development of functional human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons in mouse brain, 18644–18648, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0509315102)

See also:

Jonathan Wells: Far from being all-powerful, DNA does not wholly determine biological form (Mutate a fruit fly embryo in every possible way, and observe only three possible outcomes: a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly.)


Jonathan Wells: We are far from a good theoretical model of organisms’ development (We are far from having a complete list of the components, as a matter of fact.)

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No, that is not what this study shows, that is what UD wants you to think this study shows. Just because the cell takes on a different shape, does not mean that there is a disconnect between DNA and protein. It is not as simple as the post makes it out to be. I see two options: either the factors from the mouse are interacting with existing proteins that are naturally in the human cell, or the factors from the mouse are altering the expression or rate of expression of genes that are normally in the human cell. AVS
I disagree. This pape provides some awesome evidence for intelligent design. This is exactly what would be expected in organisms that are designed by the same designer. Manufacturers and engineers frequently use the same or very similar parts in different models. So we would expect a designer to do the same in regards to living things. Seriously, in my opinion the fact that human embryonic stem cells can be co-opted by the mous brain as if they were mouse brain cells is striking evidence for intelligent design. Now, I will be really serious. What evidence would distinguish between common descent and common designer? AVS, you are missing the point. The point is that DNA does not determine everything about a cell and that is what this study shows. Environmental factors are playing a significant role in the morphology of the cells independent of the DNA. DAD
I disagree. Not only would I expect a mouse morphology, but I think this paper provides some awesome evidence for evolution. This is exactly what would be expected in organisms that are relatively closely related. We have huge similarities in the genome and proteome, meaning mouse embryo development likely had few issues co-opting the human stem cells in normal mouse function. Which is why I would expect a mouse morphology. The mouse brain obviously has some differences in comparison to the human brain, and one or a number of these differences is probably the presence of a ligand for receptors that regulate cytoskeletal rearrangement in the human cells. This drove the human stem cell to have a mouse-like morphology. The generation of the mouse morphology, or shape, has nothing to do with the DNA present in the human cell and everything to do with factors present in the embryonic brain of the mouse interacting with the normal gene products of the human cells differently. Seriously though, in my opinion, the fact that human embryonic stem cells can be co-opted by the mouse brain, as if they were mouse brain cells, is striking evidence for evolution. I am still on UD right? AVS

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