# Scientists Question Report on Genes ...The Howard Chronicles 082401

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by HOWARDSTERN, Aug 24, 2001.

1. ### HOWARDSTERNHOWARDSTERN has logged out....Registered Senior Member

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Scientists Question Report on Genes

By DANIEL Q. HANEY
AP Medical Editor

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BOSTON (AP) — Scientists are questioning the most surprising discovery from last winter's deciphering of the human genetic code — the assertion that people have only about 30,000 genes, or roughly twice as many as the fruit fly.

A new analysis suggests that number is too low, and the real total could be considerably bigger. However, researchers who came up with the original figure are sticking with it, at least for now.

Scientists have long argued over how many genes it takes to build a human. Educated guesses have ranged up to 150,000.

The issue seemed settled last February, when two competing scientific teams published the first detailed look at virtually the entire library of genetic information contained in every human cell.

Both groups laid out the 3 billion bits of data that make up the code. Both used computers to distinguish the information that is genes from the look-alike filler. And both came up with roughly the same estimate: between 30,000 and 40,000 genes, with the best bet under 35,000.

Some speculated that the relatively small number of human genes was good news, because it means less work to understand how they all work and perhaps translate that information into cures and treatments for various diseases.

To many scientists, the fact that the two groups independently arrived at the same number made it believable.

However, a team lead by Dr. Michael Cooke of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego compared the two groups' findings and found out that they had identified two quite different sets of genes, with only roughly a 50 percent overlap between them.

<img src="http://wire.ap.org/APnews/?MIvalObj=167909&MIcolObj=smallsize&type=image/jpeg">
Computer rendering of the genome
AP/ [42K]
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The two groups agreed on the existence of about 17,000 genes. But about 25,000 more were found only by one group or the other.

It's a jaw-dropper,'' said Cooke, whose findings are published in Friday's issue of the journal Cell.

Just how many genes it takes to construct a human is unclear from the latest analysis. While Cooke believes 30,000 is too low, he estimates the total is probably not more than 60,000.

For now, nobody knows how many genes were missed by both teams or how many of those identified by just one group truly are genes.

One catalog of genes was compiled by Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md., the other by an international consortium headed by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Officials of both Celera and the consortium contend that most of the 25,000 genes found by just one group or the other will turn out to be phonies, so the final answer may still be somewhere around 30,000.

It's way too simplistic to say you can add up the non-overlapping sets and get a bigger number,'' said Celera President Craig Venter. They're probably bogus.''

Dr. Francis Collins, head of the genome institute, agreed the total is unlikely to grow hugely. It would not stun me if there turned out to be 50,000,'' he said. It would stun me greatly if there were 100,000.''

Dr. Gerald Rubin, a fruit fly expert at the University of California at Berkeley, said some scientists suspected all along that the total number would turn out to be higher than 30,000. His guess: Humans will have 54,000 genes, or four times more than the 13,600 in the fruit fly Drosophila.

Scientists are running a betting pool on what the total will be, and so far 165 have entered. (The cost of a bet rose from $1 to$5 after the release of February's data.) Right now, their average guess is 61,710 genes. The winner will be chosen in 2003, by which time it is hoped the answer will be clear.

Collins' bet, made two years ago, was 48,011. I'll hold on,'' he said. I'm not completely retracting that.''

<img src="http://wire.ap.org/APwire/import/media/graphics/0822gene.gif">

3. ### kmguruStaff Member

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Normally nature is very frugal. If you exercise, your muscles will get larger. If you stop, they go back to a minimum level for survival.

I wonder if nature did a mistake keep replicating 3 billion genes that it only needs 30,000 - that is 100,000 times error. OR is there a reason to prepare us for the next stage in evolution?...hmmm...

5. ### HOWARDSTERNHOWARDSTERN has logged out....Registered Senior Member

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Agreed. I would guess (off hand(and would laugh if I were right)), that so much of it is kinda like a continuing additive....err...additional...

........ addition......(O'hell, you know what I mean)..... record that grows with each succeeding generation.

Seems like I watched or read something (Years ago) about how some of the pros in the science community also seemed to think that new gene combinations from <i>both new parents</i> added into the offsprings genetic history that presumbly would go all the way back to the beginning of life itself.

In other words,

with each new generation, the parents' genes would be stored......like a genetic historical record of sorts. I've read about similar things regarding evolution/natural selection, but no examples to my warped mind at this moment.

\
If something like this is true, it would be awesome if genetic lines could be traced back, perhaps to the beginning! It would be even more awesome if a futuristic computer program could take genetic code combinations and render a computer generated visual picture of such past forms of life!

Well, I could go on and on.....

......it's a truly fascinating subject. I wish someone would give me a scholarship!

7. ### wet1WandererRegistered Senior Member

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While many are probably redundant, I wonder about this. It was commented on some few weeks or less back that a fetus goes through a mini evolution while going through the stages of development in growth. I wonder how many link back to our remote past? How many genes might be from the time of fish? Or lizards? Or tadpoles? And where is that information in our genes? It is there somewhere or that stage would be left out.

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I was taught this in biology, but what I should have asked was if this true then fish are in a less evolved state than humans and have apparently been here way longer.

9. ### kmguruStaff Member

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11,757
I am glad, you brought that up. I am working with a few friends of mine to take the DNA and run them through a neural pattern recognition software that we are developing, that will generate a face from the DNA of a person.

The other idea about the history of the genes sounds plausible. If I have an opportunity to play with a full set of genetic databse, I will let you know, what I think.

Good ideas, as always....Howard

10. ### HOWARDSTERNHOWARDSTERN has logged out....Registered Senior Member

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Many times in the past, I have picked up on various science programs from sources such as: The Discovery Channel, TLC, PBS, Discover magazine, Scientific American... that featured various pros stating they believed that all life shares a common ancestory. I understand this and do believe pretty much the same way.

It seems to me that if this common ancestory theory is correct, then ultimately human ancestoral lines would be the same age as that of a dinosaur or even a precambrian form of life. A slightly twisted way of looking at it.

In a similar way of observation, it really cannot be stated that an African human is the oldest form of human either, since all human races likely split off from a <i>common ancestor which was probably not necessarily African, European, Asian, ect......</i> Perhaps indeed, the common ancestoral parent race of our present day races may have came out of Africa, but that does <u>not</u> arbitrarily make the African race the parent of all of the other races. Rather it would seem to me that incremental mutatations from a parent race took place from one generation to the next and resulted from the nomadic offshoots as they adapted to the changing environmental conditions of the new lands that they tread upon.

Obviously, with mutations, there are going to be a huge number of mutant lifeforms that are going to be unable to cope with the enviroment because their mutations are going to be detrimental, such as advanced cancer in early age, or to be born without various limbs, ect --any of a variety of such would, of course mean that the lifeform probably could not survive. Note that I am speaking generally of the animal kingdom, since we all know that many detrimental mutations in humans are circumvented by human technolgy and human compassion. This is the downside of mutations. Now on to the more positive aspects of mutations.

Occasionally there are going to be mutations of the various lifeforms that will cause the mutated lifeform to become slightly different from it's brothers/cousins, ect...... and still be able to survive......<u>long enough</u> to breed and thereby make copies of itself & it's mate. One of the most beneficial mutations among all lifeforms is going to be a mutation that helps the mutant to find food better than it's "normal" parents did, or a mutation that helps it (mutant) to digest other types of food that it's parents could not! For example, if a dedicated carnivore tribe of animal (parent in that tribe) were to have <u>a</u> mutated offspring that could also survive by digesting plant fiber (like a herbivore), then the genes of that mutant would continue forward into it's own offspring. If it (mutant), were to be very fruitful and have many offspring, then it stands to reason that some of it's decendants (in each succeeding generation) will also have the ability to process plant fiber cellulose as a food source. As long as the mutant and it's decendants carry this example trait of plant digestive capabilities, then it seems likely that in times of prey scarcity, the mutant and it's decendants will have a better chance of avoiding starvation, while their predator cousins will die off proportionally to the level of prey. This mutant omnivores' decendants would then begin to become it's own species and even possibly replace it's carnivore specific cousins, especially if the level of prey animals declined to a point of non-existance (unlikely, but possible).

<i>I remember reading a small article many years ago. It was a theory put forth about the Kangaroo. It was theorized that at one time the Kangaroo was in fact a predator. Killer Kangaroos that ran in packs, like wolves!!! From what little I remember of this article, I believe that there were ancient Kangaroo bones found that had characteristics more like a predator --thus the theory put forth. There was even an artists rendention of what a "Killer Kangaroo" might look like. As I recall, it looked like a cross between Braum Stoker's (the movie) Dracula & present day Kangaroo on steroids! ! ! Anyway, this would be a good example.</i>

The main point that I am attempting to make is that food, or more specifically the food source available, is <b>one</b> of the major factors that determine what kind of creatures will live at any particular moment in Earth history! What it comes down to is that the Earth's environment determines what kinds of lifeforms exist. Also, when I say this, I mean that other lifeforms are also included <u>as part of the enviromental conditions</u>.

To me, I see our star (sun) as the prime potential energy that all life of the Earth eventually absorbs, whether directly as a plant does, or as a grazing animal that eats the plants, or the Carnivore/omnivore that feeds off of the grazing animals and plants alike. The nearly limitless combinations of food sources and environmental conditions, as well as the continuing interaction of the lifeforms (mutations) through the passages of time can still be predicted, I believe. It is difficult to put into words, what I see so easily...But I'm weird that way. I am also one of those people that can visualize the entire wiring system of an automobile, where most people cannot.

<i>You know, it has just occurred to me that there may very well be a general <b>ratio</b> between negative detrimental mutations vs. positive & beneficial mutations! As I have stated, it seems to me that there are a huge number of random mutations in all the various species, most of which are "DEAD ENDS". In a much wider point of view, I would wonder if there might be a general recurring percentage ratio that would apply to all the various forms of life? In other words, I would be very interested if the ratio of failed mutations were to be around--say 98%, (perhaps lower or higher), with successful mutations being 2% (more or less) , and if such a possible ratio would indeed apply to all the different lifeforms. If such a ratio did exist, then it would seem to make some kind of statement of Evolutional law regarding life on this Earth, at least. What if if turned out that throughout all Earth life, a certain consistant percentage were failed mutations vs the successful mutations that would be able to breed and carry on their genetic lineage? O' well, it seems like that might be a helpful thing to know.

</i>

Kmguru, you were talking about building software .......such a ratio might be useful in "fudging" a few unknown variables.....

Well I'm tired of rambling.......talk at y'all later.......hs/hs...

11. ### kmguruStaff Member

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11,757
Here is another thought along the lines of DNA. I read today that scientists are testing pills, when reaches the intestine releases its payload to insert an insulin making gene into the cells, so that diabetics do not have to inject it.

I wonder if the food we eat does a similar function in our body and changes ever so slightly certain genes out of the 3 billion for our body to adapt to the new environment. And if that is true, how the pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and herbicides in food affect our body today?

Another item, I wonder is that, what if we did not originate from Afrika, but had 3 separate simian species, each evolved into what is known as Caucasian, Mongolian, and Afrikan ?

Just pondering....