Monthly Archives: July 2016

Self Replicating Proteins May be a Clue to Life Origins

The proteins in our body must not only be the right configuration, but the right shape. Prions are misfolded proteins that are also self replicating which can cause biological systems to malfunction such as forming holes in the brain called spongiform encephalitis (Mad Cow disease or Crutchfield Jacobs disease in humans).

Prions can spread from one organism to another by mouth, blood or contaminated surfaces. Like infectious viruses, prions can also have variants, or strains, that produce different effects, not all of which are harmful. Unlike the rest of biologically active structures, prions don’t have information-storage molecules like DNA or RNA, yet they are able to copy and transmit biological information. This has strained the idea that all replication of proteins must come from an information coding system like DNA or RNA. While it does put some strain on the validity of our conventional interpretations of how things happen in evolution and biology (that proteins are “only” manufactured from DNA to RNA and then to final form as protein), it may also be a clue to our origins. (Note* retroviruses are also known to violate this rule, called the central dogma of molecular biology)

Some researchers have proposed that it may be possible, due to the ease with which amino acids and peptides can be produced by abiotic means; that the first protocells may have been proteins only encapsulated in lipid membranes. (For more information look up Fox’s protein microspheres). These microspheres may have only acquired nucleic acids as an adaptation later on as a means information storage related to reproduction.

In other words; it is thought that proteins may have reproduced themselves by some autocatalytic process at first, like that which we see in prions today. Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that there are still noncoded peptides in certain bacteria to this day (See Day, 1979, p. 369). Is it possible that proteins began working in mutually beneficial symbiotic relation to each other and some of which eventually specialized in information storage and protein synthesis” This type of relationship dynamic is known to have happened in the case of mitochondria and chloroplasts, Eukaryotes are thought to originated as symbiotic prokaryote organisms that fused into obligate (necessary-inseparable) form.

Is it possible that RNA and DNA were adaptive strategies in service of prions? Is the behavior of prions a clue to our origins? Time may tell.

Here’s more on Prions:

Developing Sustainable Cycles in Farming

Developing sustainable cycles in farming is important. Although we have come a long way in terms of production capacity, this is not the same as developing a sustainable model. Capturing the principles of sustainability is of great value because it leans us toward a future that is not peppered with boom and bust cycles because we did not tend to our long game. Here is one such person, who may happen to have a crappy job, but is leading the charge for the future.

Biology Is Social All the Way to the Core

 

Social psychology studies social interactions, including their origins and their effects on the individual. It focuses on the relationship between the mental structures within the individual and the social structures which that individual encounters and interacts with, and how that shapes the individual and the wider social landscape. One of the keys to understanding this relationship dynamic is in looking at the multiple flows on influence back and forth that define the overall nature of the entire relationship system. This complex relational dance brings up the intersection of multiple influences from which our experience and behaviors emerge. This same principle is now beginning to be understood on a biological level as we see the influence of various organisms on each other over time can shape our experience, our individual developmental paths and our evolution. A long history of just such a relationship dynamic can be witnessed by examining certain gut microbes that are thought to have been around humans since before humans were humans. They currently play powerful roles in steering the early development of our intestines, in training our immune systems to negotiate the “shark” infested waters they will have to contend with over a lifetime, and possibly affecting our moods and behaviors, including social behaviors, in many other ways.

So tightly tied together is this biological social dance that there is now genetic evidence that certain bacteria split into distinct strains at about the same times as their hosts split into distinct species, demonstrating the influence of organisms on each other in the evolutionary development story.

From a certain perspective, what we think of as human is composed of a parliament of biological bodies that together form a relationship system that defines who and what we are as “individuals” through a vast and intertwined collection of interdependent influences, and what could be more social than that?

For a more refined glimpse at a segment of the social relationship between gut microbes and humans, click here. From the article:

“Some of the bacteria in our guts were passed down over millions of years, since before we were human, suggesting that evolution plays a larger role than previously known in people’s intestinal-microbe makeup… our gut microbes, which we could get from many sources in the environment, have actually been co-evolving inside us for such a long time…  scientists found genetic evidence that the bacteria split into distinct strains at about the same times as their hosts were splitting into distinct species… One… happened about 15.6 million years ago as the gorilla lineage diverged from the other hominids. The other… about 5.3 million years ago as the human lineage separated from the lineage leading to chimps and bonobos.

Again Read more on this at: http://phys.org/news/2016-07-bacteria-human-gut.html

Is our social behavior an Echo of Physics?

Tajfel's_Theory_of_Social_Identity

Every atom the functions as part of our biological system craves specific relationships with other atoms. There are systems that are geared to satisfy those hungers and other systems, like our immune system, that are geared to reject and expel any elements the “do not belong to the in-group” so to speak. It is this complex social dynamic between physical elements that forms and maintains our biological structure.

Like the relationship dynamic that happens on a micro scale, as a whole, our biological system has specific hungers that must be met as well. From a certain perspective, our own behavioral and social actions are, in essence, a reflection of that from which we are physically composed. This can be found clearly echoed in scientific disciplines such as sociology. The following is one example:

According to Social Identity Theory, comparison with an outgroup is the main engine by which positive ingroup distinctiveness is formed.

Experiments conducted by Henri Tajfel and others into the so-called Minimal Group Paradigm illustrate this point well.

In the experiments to see what the minimum was to establish an in-group, a number of assumptions, concepts, values or practices were accepted in order to better allow a view of the onset of human group formation and of the appearance of discriminatory behaviours toward out-group.

From the article:

“Intergroup behaviour was analyzed in a situation of “mere categorization” such as where people involved as subjects in this research were told that they were individually “overestimators” or “underestimators” of the number of dots in a display. It was found that even under very flimsy and apparently baseless assigned social categorisation into two distinct, and previously “unheard of” social categories, in-group favoritism and out-group derogation occurred in the distribution, by the research subjects, of “rewards for participation” in the study.”

This is more evidence that shows how hard wired we are to cling to a group and reject anything perceived as out-group.  For a more detailed look Click Here

Ant Colonies have Group-Level Personalities

Antz1

This glimpse at ant life may help give us some insight into human group dynamics. As it turns out, ants have group-level personalities as well. The same way human cultures are shaped by environmental circumstances that powerfully influence their characteristics, ants and other social creatures may be influenced by these same factors.

From the article: “Colonies of funnel ants show group personality, which affects their success at collecting food and competing with other colonies… Some colonies are full of adventurous risk-takers, whereas others are less aggressive about foraging for food and exploring the great outdoors… these group “personality types” are linked to food-collecting strategies, and they could alter our understanding of how social insects behave.

For the full article Click here: