500-Million-Year-Old Gene Resurrected

Scientists Place 500-Million-Year-Old Gene in Modern Organism:

Scientists Place 500-Million-Year-Old Gene in Modern Organism

Scientists Place 500-Million-Year-Old Gene in Modern Organism

It’s a project 500 million years in the making. Only this time, instead of playing on a movie screen in Jurassic Park, it’s happening in a lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

 

Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.

“This is as close as we can get to rewinding and replaying the molecular tape of life,” said scientist Betül Kaçar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. “The ability to observe an ancient gene in a modern organism as it evolves within a modern cell allows us to see whether the evolutionary trajectory once taken will repeat itself or whether a life will adapt following a different path.”

In 2008, Kaçar’s postdoctoral advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Eric Gaucher, successfully determined the ancient genetic sequence of Elongation Factor-Tu (EF-Tu), an essential protein in E. coli. EFs are one of the most abundant proteins in bacteria, found in all known cellular life and required for bacteria to survive. That vital role made it a perfect protein for the scientists to answer questions about evolution.

After achieving the difficult task of placing the ancient gene in the correct chromosomal order and position in place of the modern gene within E. coli, Kaçar produced eight identical bacterial strains and allowed “ancient life” to re-evolve. This chimeric bacteria composed of both modern and ancient genes survived, but grew about two times slower than its counterpart composed of only modern genes.

“The altered organism wasn’t as healthy or fit as its modern-day version, at least initially,” said Gaucher, “and this created a perfect scenario that would allow the altered organism to adapt and become more fit as it accumulated mutations with each passing day.”

The growth rate eventually increased and, after the first 500 generations, the scientists sequenced the genomes of all eight lineages to determine how the bacteria adapted. Not only did the fitness levels increase to nearly modern-day levels, but also some of the altered lineages actually became healthier than their modern counterpart.

When the researchers looked closer, they noticed that every EF-Tu gene did not accumulate mutations. Instead, the modern proteins that interact with the ancient EF-Tu inside of the bacteria had mutated and these mutations were responsible for the rapid adaptation that increased the bacteria’s fitness. In short, the ancient gene has not yet mutated to become more similar to its modern form, but rather, the bacteria found a new evolutionary trajectory to adapt.

The results were presented at the recent NASA International Astrobiology Science Conference. The scientists will continue to study new generations, waiting to see if the protein will follow its historical path or whether it will adopt via a novel path altogether.

“We think that this process will allow us to address several longstanding questions in evolutionary and molecular biology,” said Kaçar. “Among them, we want to know if an organism’s history limits its future and if evolution always leads to a single, defined point or whether evolution has multiple solutions to a given problem.”

Canada is a dangerous place for Iranian citizens

Iran warns its citizens that Canada is a dangerous place:

 Iran warns its citizens that Canada is a dangerous place


Iran warns its citizens that Canada is a dangerous place

 

Tehran has officially warned its citizens and expatriates that Canada is a dangerous place in the latest swipe as both government’s trade accusations. So many Iranians live in Canada’s largest city that it’s often called ‘Tehranto’ among the moneyed elites in the Islamic Republic and thousands among the Iranian diaspora travel back and forth annually. But with relations so seriously soured between the two governments that Canada has closed its embassy in Tehran and kicked Iranian diplomats out of Ottawa, the ruling Islamic theocracy and the conservative Harper government are now trading insults in the form of travel advisories. “Avoid all travel,” the Harper government warned Canadians in the latest ‘red’ advisory. Not to be outdone, the Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday issued a stark warning about the risks for Iranians travelling to Canada. Tehran warned – for instance – of the risks of police violence, citing clashes between students and authorities in Montreal over threatened tuition increases. In the wake of the embassy closing, “Islamphobia and Iranphobia have not stopped in Canada, rather escalated over the past few days,” reported the semi-official news agency Irna, quoting from the Foreign Ministry travel warning. It added Iranian expatriates has been arrested and expelled and deprived of basic rights, including banking transactions – apparently a reference to financial sanctions imposed by Canada and other governments on Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Iran warned that murder and other violent crime was on the rise in Canada, adding that the forced closing of its embassy in Ottawa meant there were no diplomats available to assist Iranian citizens. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, has been strident in denouncing the Harper government in recent weeks. At one point he said the “hostile attitude of the Canadian racist government is …. dictated by the Zionist regime and the UK.” Meanwhile, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird has called the Islamic Regime the greatest threat to world peace. In the battle of the travel warnings, Ottawa struck first. “In the context of heightened regional tensions, Iranian-Canadian dual citizens may be particularly vulnerable to investigation and harassment by Iranian authorities,” Ottawa said in its travel advisory posted online. It also warned about the risk of visitors and dual nationals getting swept up in protests. “On several occasions, demonstrations resulted in violent clashes. People near demonstrations have been assaulted, and deaths have been reported,” Canada’s warning said. In Tehran, the government took a not-so-veiled slap at the “Canadian government’s double-standard about human rights [which] has been the focus of the world and Canadian public opinion,” it said, an apparent reference to the Harper government’s staunch support of Israel. Few Canadians, other than those who hold dual citizenship or have family ties in Iran, have visited Iran in the decades since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. So Ottawa’s travel warning is aimed primarily at Iranian-Canadians. However, thousands of Iranians, both tourists on group tours and individual travelers have routinely visited Canada in recent years. The flow has been so significant that Ottawa used to assign additional consular officers to the Canadian embassy in Tehran to cope. That ended last spring as relations worsened and Ottawa told Iranians they would need to get visas issued in Turkey.

Ill boy send’s robot to school

Boy sends robot to school in his place:

Boy sends robot to school in his place

Boy sends robot to school in his place

A seven-year-old boy who is too ill to go to school has sent a robot to class in his place. Devon Carrow, from New York in America, uses the £3,000 ‘robo-swot’ to answer his teachers’ questions and take part in group discussions, all from the comfort of his home. The high-tech gadget uses HD cameras to show Devon his classroom and he can signal when he wants to give an answer with a flashing light.

Robot
The robot even has its own desk! Devon has lots of allergies, which mean it is dangerous for him to be around other children. His Mum says that the equipment helps him feel included and realise that he still has to go to school the same as anyone else.