What Darwin Never Knew…About Genetic Triggers

I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat of a scientist so I thoroughly enjoyed the video detailing the science that Charles Darwin began 150 years ago. It’s amazing to think that one person’s great idea could inspire generations of scientists to unravel the mysteries that Darwin himself never could.

What intrigued me the most, aside from the arcing theme of evolution, was the revelation of genetic triggers that have only recently been discovered. Darwin knew that there were things that caused a creature to evolve one way over another but he never could have imagined that creatures spanning several species would share the same genetic composition. That an event that would otherwise be considered a mutation could be caused by a trigger gene shared by several species is so profound it boggles the mind. For example, the gene controlling the protein building gene for our mastication muscles are profoundly different from our closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee. This mutation of the gene restricted the power of our bite but allowed for our larger cranial cavity, thus allowing us to grow bigger brains.

I find the concept of “Boss” genes so intriguing because of the scientific potential in understanding them. The protein coding genes have been identified but nearly 98% of our DNA, the so-called “junk DNA” is still being researched. If we can understand the material that tells the protein building genes what to do, when to do it, and for how long, we can better control and assist people suffering from debilitating diseases. I doubt even Darwin would have suspected that his great idea would eventually prove the catalyst for solving the most profound of human ailments.

In the search for answers, we are ever closer to finding out not only the questions posed by Darwin 150 years ago, but also to the key components of what truly makes us human.

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