Alternate Title: Of Mice and Men and Evolutionary Dogma
“There has been a circular argument that if it’s conserved it has activity.” Edward Rubin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Genomics Division Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Recent experiments cause a central tenet of NDE to miss the prediction. Large swaths of junk DNA (non-coding, no known function) were found to be highly conserved between mice and men. A central tenet of NDE is that unexpressed (unused) genomic information is subject to relatively rapid corruption from chance mutations. If it’s unused it won’t do any harm if it mutates into oblivion. If it’s unused long enough it gets peppered with mutations into random oblivion. If mice and men had a common ancestor many millions of years ago and they still have highly conserved DNA in common, the story follows that all the conserved DNA must have an important survival value.
A good experiment to figure out what unknown purpose the non-coding conserved pieces are doing would be to cut them out of the mouse genome and see what kind of damage it does to the mouse. So it was done. Big pieces of junk DNA with a thousand highly conserved regions common between mice and men was chopped out of the mouse. In amazement the mouse was as healthy as a horse (so to speak). The amazed researchers were in such a state because they were confident NDE predicted some kind of survival critical function and none was found.
This is a good avenue for positive ID research. If the function of any of those regions were preserved because they could be of important use in the future… well that would pretty much blow a hole in the good ship NDE the size of the one that sunk the Titanic. Maybe not that big, but it would be taking on water – natural selection can’t plan for the future. Planning for the future with genomic information is the central tenet of ID front loading hypothesis. Lack of any known means of conserving non-critical genetic information is the major objection lobbed at the front loading hypothesis. Evidently there is a means after all.
16:30 03 June 2004
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
Sylvia PagÃƒÂ¡n Westphal, Boston
To find out the function of some of these highly conserved non-protein-coding regions in mammals, Edward Rubin’s team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California deleted two huge regions of junk DNA from mice containing nearly 1000 highly conserved sequences shared between human and mice.
One of the chunks was 1.6 million DNA bases long, the other one was over 800,000 bases long. The researchers expected the mice to exhibit various problems as a result of the deletions.
Yet the mice were virtually indistinguishable from normal mice in every characteristic they measured, including growth, metabolic functions, lifespan and overall development. “We were quite amazed,” says Rubin, who presented the findings at a recent meeting of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
He thinks it is pretty clear that these sequences have no major role in growth and development. “There has been a circular argument that if it’s conserved it has activity.”
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