The Technium

Computational DNA

The computational aspects of DNA become more evident each day. Recently a series of experiments have suggested that classic Mendelian genetics is not the whole story. Specifically, contrary to classic Mendel, a certain research plant can revert back to its original grandparents after breeding. It would be like you recovering genes of your grandparents that your parents did not have. The question is, if this is true, where do the old genes come from? Because the research was done on plants, some skeptical of the findings thought it came from cross-pollination even though the plants self-pollinate. New research in isolated chambers dismisses that conjecture. But the original researcher has an idea, as recounted in a The Scientist article:

According to this theory, somewhere in the plant cells exists an RNA copy of ancestral DNA.

In other words, cells carry their own internal backups. For some reason, something can trigger the “restore” button and the chromosome is restored with an archival version of the gene.

That’s one of several theories but all of them assume that the genetic information process in a cell is like a computer with dozens of weird sum-checking, error-correcting, self-governing circuits — and all the recursive weirdness they entail.


(Thanks Zander)


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