Once again, we continue to find that the roots of human evolution extend deep back into time, which would mean that extensive aspects of the past have been forwarded to the future:.
For the first time, they have identified the oncogene myc in a fresh water polyp and they have shown that this oncogene has similar biochemical functions in ancestral metazoan and in humans. The scientists published their findings in PNAS.
The myc gene plays an important role in the growth of organisms. It produces a protein that acts as a gene regulator, which controls the expression of up to 15 % of all human genes.
The Innsbruck scientific teams of Klaus Bister, Markus Hartl and Bert Hobmayer have, for the first time, identified the oncogene in a fresh water polyp (Hydra) and they have shown that it has very similar functions when compared with humans.
The two millimeter long Hydra were one of the first metazoans that developed on the earth about 600 million years ago and can still be found in many waters. “It is amazing that we have been able to find this oncogene in such a simple organism,” says Hydra expert Hobmayer from the Institute of Zoology. “Because the gene has been conserved in evolution all the way from Hydra to humans, we are now able to analyze biological and biochemical functions of the myc gene in detail and draw conclusions for the human organism,” adds Klaus Bister. The findings of the researchers from Innsbruck are particularly interesting because they identified the oncogene in the stem cell system of Hydra. “Our experiments are bound to uncover interesting findings about stem cells,” says Prof. Bister. The stem cells in the fresh water polyp strongly indicate its regenerative ability — the polyp completely regenerates within five days and, thus, it could theoretically age ad infinitum.
By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision.
Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.
“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”
Oakley explained that there are many genes involved in vision, and that there is an ion channel gene responsible for starting the neural impulse of vision. This gene controls the entrance and exit of ions; i.e., it acts as a gateway.
As Michael Ruse noted, “Organisms really are built on the Lego principle, with the same building blocks: Go one way and get a human, another way and get a fly.” Factor in things like transposable elements and introns and you have a means to move those lego blocks around.