CORVALLIS, Ore. A study that tracked genetic mutations through the human equivalent of about 5,000 years has demonstrated for the first time that oxidative DNA damage is a primary cause of the process of mutation - the fuel for evolution but also a leading cause of aging, cancer and other diseases.
The research, just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also indicated that natural selection is affecting the parts of the genome that don't contain genes supposedly "junk" DNA that increasingly appears to have important roles in life processes that are very poorly understood.
The analysis was done by scientists at Oregon State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida and University of New Hampshire, in studies supported by the National Institutes of Health.
This research was unusual, scientists say, because the model animal used for the study, a type of roundworm called C. elegans, was tracked through 250 generations and in that period of time accumulated 391 genetic mutations through normal life processes. That's more than 10 times as many mutations as have ever before been tracked in a study such as this.
Several Nobel Prizes have been awarded based on studies done with this roundworm, which was the first animal to have its entire genome sequenced. And despite their vast evolutionary separation as life forms, this tiny roundworm and humans still share comparable forms of DNA maintenance.
"Genetic mutations in animals are actually pretty rare, they don't happen very often unless they are induced by something," said Dee Denver, an assistant professor of zoology at OSU and principal investigator on the study. "The value of using this roundworm is that it reaches reproductive age in about four days, so we can study changes that happen through hundreds of generations, using advanced genome sequencing technology."
Genetic mutations can take various forms, suc
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Oregon State University