Sunday, September 30, 2012

Biologists Replay 500 Million Years Of E Coli Evolution In The Lab

Biology is changing so rapidly and fundamentally that it's hard to keep track of the revolutionary transformations that are afoot.

Here's one of them. Synthetic biology is the design and construction of biological systems not found in nature. This is engineering-- using molecular building blocks to create new biomolecules, such as genes.

Here's another technique. By comparing the DNA of related species, biologists can work out the DNA structure of their common ancestors.

Then, using synthetic biology, they can reconstruct these sequences in the lab. In this way, biologists have begun to resurrect all kinds of ancient biomolecules, including hormone receptors and even ancient molecular machines.

Today, Betül Kaçar and Eric Gaucher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta reveal that they have combined these techniques to perform a remarkable experiment.

These guys have reconstructed an ancient gene from an ancestor of the bacterial organism E coli that lived some 500 million years ago. They've then replaced the modern version of this gene with the ancient one in a population of E coli.

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This is an interesting piece of news that truly makes you think about what scientists can study and possibly prove with new technologies.

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