by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (SPX) Feb 17, 2012
Since Charles Darwin first put forth the theory of evolution, scientists have been trying to unlock the mysteries of genetics. But research on the genome - the organism's entire hereditary package encoded in DNA and RNA - has been less extensive. There is a tendency to think of the genome as a static and passive container of information, says Dr. Ehud Lamm of Tel Aviv University's Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas.
In the Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Workshop on the History and Philosophy of Science, Dr. Lamm has introduced a critical new paradigm that redefines the genome as a dynamic structure that can impact genes themselves.
"When you try to explain human society by reducing it to individuals, you neglect the fact that people are also shaped by their social environment. The picture is bidirectional," he says, explaining that the relationship between genes and genomes is comparable. "Genomes have a physiology - and genes are a manifestation of this."
His reconception of the genome could change both biological discourse and research. Focusing on notions such as genomic response to stress factors, his theoretical work has the potential to provide deeper insight into how organisms develop and evolve.
Changing genetic research
Based on current empirical knowledge from the fields of genetics, epigenetics, and genomics as well as "thought experiments," a tool used by scientists and philosophers to analyze situations and experimental conditions, Dr. Lamm is bringing to light the consequences of a new perspective on the genome.
From its embryonic development and continuing throughout our lives, the three-dimensional structure of the genome is changing constantly. The subtle relationship between genes and genomes impacts properties such as recessivity and dominance - a result of the developmental system rather than an intrinsic genetic property - and the process of how genes are inherited.
Lamm calls mechanisms that are involved in genomic changes "genomic epigenetic mechanisms" (GEMs) and highlights their importance for understanding the evolution of both genomes and organisms. Some GEMs are activated under conditions of ecological or genomic stress and can lead to changes that are subsequently inherited, contributing to the evolutionary process.
Although research into genomic structure and dynamics is ongoing, existing information can be used to reassess central notions in evolutionary biology.
Ultimately, the mechanisms of the genome impact how, when, and in what way genetic material acts, as well as the physiology of cells themselves.
Building a new conceptual framework
"The time is ripe to start thinking about how the genome and genes work as a system. With a gene-centric point of view, central concepts in genetics are problematic, most critically the gene concept itself. Considering the genome in addition to the gene might fill the gaps," concludes Dr. Lamm. With better conceptual tools, scientists can become more adept at thinking about these crucial biological systems.
Tel Aviv University
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Armenia culls wolves after cold snap attacks
Yerevan (AFP) Feb 16, 2012
The authorities in Armenia on Thursday offered cash rewards to hunters who kill wolves after increasing reports of attacks on rural villages exacerbated by recent cold weather and heavy snow. "Because of the heavy snowfall, wolves began to appear more frequently in populated areas and it became necessary to deal with them," Armenian Environmental Protection Minister Aram Harutiunian told a n ... read more
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