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Ancient bacteria may help Georgia Tech scientists answer questions about evolution
Scientists have resurrected 500 million year old bacteria in a "Jurassic Park" experiment, Georgia Tech sources report - and although it's not exactly the stuff of action movies, the discovery will likely add to our current knowledge of evolution and how it works.
Georgia Tech scientists, based in Atlanta, brought the ancient bacteria back to life by splicing it with modern E.Coli, creating a chimera (combined) organism. The chimera then was allowed to reproduce and "re-evolve," giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity to rewind the tape on evolution.
Although this find isn't going to lead to the birth of flocks of Velociraptors anytime soon, the Georgia Tech team said in a July 12th press release that they hope to learn valuable new information about how evolution works.
“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," said scientist Betül Kaçar in the press release, who is a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution.
Observing the different choices an organism makes when re-evolved could potentially give the Georgia Tech team insight into how life on earth evolved - and is an interesting scientific exercise in what could potentially have happened differently in the history of life on earth.
Another interesting revelation? After 500 (brief) generations, the Georgia Tech team reported that some strains of the combined bacteria were actually more robust than the original - indicating that the organism had made some "smart" mutations.
Read More: Astrobiology explained on NASA's website
“The altered organism wasn’t as healthy or fit as its modern-day version, at least initially...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," observed Kaçar’s postdoctoral advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Eric Gaucher in the Georgia Tech press release.
The experiment will continue, and Kaçar appears optimistic about the results, according to the release. “We think that this process will allow us to address several longstanding questions in evolutionary and molecular biology,” he said.
“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.”