Corrado Spadafora’s laboratory originally discovered that mature sperm cells from a variety of species share the ability to spontaneously take up exogenous DNA molecules and deliver them to oocytes at fertilization: they called that phenomenon cell-mediated sperm-mediated gene transfer (SMGT). That feature was subsequently exploited, in theirs and other laboratories, to generate genetically modified animals in different species. More.
Three aspects need to be seriously recognized. First, epigenetics heavily affects inheritance. Second, there is transgenerational inheritance, that is, information that can be inherited from one generation to the next unlinked from chromosomes, because extrachromosomal DNA or RNA structures can get through the germline to the next generation and cause phenotypic variations in the offspring. Transgenerational inheritance constitutes a flow of information that parallels that associated with chromosomes. The third aspect is determined by retrotransposons or retro-elements that exert genome-wide effects at both the genetic and epigenetic levels.
Currently there is too much emphasis on next generation technology data. A flood of information appears every week in the literature, but how much of it is truly significant? How much of it actually advances our knowledge of fundamental mechanisms?
We are distracted by a quantitative excess of information while fundamental questions go unanswered. We need to go back and answer those questions in molecular biology, development and evolution — not dwell so much on technology.
Suzan Mazur: This “flood of information” is largely being published to sell journals and magazines?
Corrado Spadafora: [I]f technology enables us to do something valuable, that must be published. But many papers address very specialized audiences. Sometimes it’s difficult for scientists outside that specialized area to understand what these papers mean. For example, sometimes I read the title of an article and I just give up. . . .
Technology is evolving and provides novel tools for expanding knowledge, but technology per se is not everything. We need broader critical understanding.
Mazur is the author of The Origin of Life Circus
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