History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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DNA and environment

February 25th, 2008 · No Comments

From IndiaPost

Anita Goel is enthralled by motor and not the kind that resides under the lid of your car. But the molecular motors that stick along strands of DNA, reading and replicating genetic information. They are the motors of life itself. Goel, a 29 year-old researcher in the physics department at Harvard, hopes to learn how these nanoscopic machines work. In particular, she is interested in how the environment can affect the motor’s operation.

“I find it intriguing,” says Goel, “that conditions within cells can affect the flow of information encoded in DNA.” It all sounds complex but for Goel this is what she always wanted to do and get. While visiting the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, Goel began thinking more deeply about theories that might adequately describe the interaction of DNA molecular motors with their environment.

To Goel, the common understanding of DNA is a bit oversimplified. “We currently think of DNA as the sole source of information necessary for building a living organism. But if the environment affects the way the DNA is read and replicated, then perhaps the information embedded within the environment is also important for life.

And if this proves true, it will affect our understanding of evolution, at least on the molecular level. Simply put, the environment doesn’t just lead to a selection of the fittest creature’s DNA. It could also change the way that cells process the information encoded in DNA.”

Tags: Evolution

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