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Study on Cells with Minimal Genes and Evolutionary Potential

Context:

Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington have conducted a study on cells with minimal genes, focusing on the essential genes vital for an organism’s survival and reproduction. Published in the journal Nature, their research delves into how these streamlined cells can adapt and evolve, challenging conventional ideas about genetic flexibility and mutation rates.

Relevance:

GS III: Science

Key Study Findings on Minimal Cells and Evolution

  • The research focused on a synthetic version of Mycoplasma mycoides, a bacterium causing respiratory disease in livestock.
  • This minimal version, containing only 493 essential genes, was studied for over 300 days, differing from the non-minimal strain with 901 genes.
  • Mycoplasma mycoides holds the record for the highest mutation rate among cellular organisms.
  • Cells with minimal essential genes can adapt and evolve similarly to regular cells.
  • Despite reduced genetic material, minimal cells displayed mutation rates akin to non-minimal cells.
  • Genome reduction didn’t impede adaptation rates in minimal cells.
  • This understanding of minimal cell evolution impacts fields like synthetic biology, where researchers apply engineering principles to design organisms for various applications, including medicine and fuel production.
  • The study highlights that engineered cells aren’t static; they undergo evolution, offering insights into how synthetic organisms may adapt when confronted with the inevitable forces of evolution.

-Source: The Hindu


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