March 29, 2016

100 Words -- Mystery Meat

Scientists wanted to build the simplest cell capable of reproduction. They started with the smallest genetically-endowed bacteria and rebuilt a stripped-down version that could still function, which turned out to have 473 genes. (Humans have about 22,000 genes.) Here’s the interesting bit. Of those 473 genes, 149 or almost 30 percent were mystery meat … unknowns in terms of their biological function. Without them the bacteria misfire; with them the spark of life ignites. Why? We have no idea. Basically, we’re still kids putting together an erector set without the complete instructions. God help us when we figure it all out.

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