News to Note, February 9, 2008

Featured in News to Know

Lost in space

1. Precursors to Life Found In Distant Galaxy

The indication of the presence of an amino acid “precursor” in a distant galaxy is the latest “evidence” that life can spring up wherever, according to research conducted using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

2. So-Called Evidence Found for Accelerated Evolution

A spate of recent genomic changes is responsible for today’s variance in human skin color, stature, and other traits, reports ScienceNOW on new research published in Nature Genetics.

3. Research Supports Biblical Description of Language Development

New research on the “evolution” of language supports the Bible’s description of all languages having appeared recently.

4. Saturn Moon May Contain Water

Piggybacking on our first story of the week is news of a German team that has more evidence that there is water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

5. ScienceDaily: “Some 'Junk' DNA Is Important Guide For Nerve-cell Channel Production”

Another important role has been discovered for so-called “junk” DNA, mysterious sections of the human genome once considered useless.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have determined that introns associated with RNA play an important part in making electrical channels for nerve cells, helping neuronal communication. Abnormalities in these channels can result in epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive disorders, and other problems.

Introns were previously thought of as useless DNA (hence the “junk” appellation), but we’re realizing more and more that these sequences are meaningful and perform necessary tasks. The introns examined by the Penn researchers, led by pharmacology professor James Eberwine, have found “that an RNA encoding for a nerve-cell electrical channel, called the BK channel, contains an intron that is present outside the nucleus.” Without the intron, the BK channels would not be created in the appropriate location within the cell.

Tests that removed the introns resulted in cells with abnormal electrical properties. “This is the first evidence that an intron-containing RNA outside of the nucleus serves a critical cellular function,” said Eberwine. “The intron acts like a guide or gatekeeper. . . . Just because the intron is not in the final channel protein doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an important purpose.”

Since such junk DNA was originally construed as the “leftovers” of evolution—genetic fossils that served no valid purpose—each discovery of a function for junk DNA both counts as a strike against the evolutionary story of origins (which predicts such non-coding regions) and another sign of the wisdom and detailed design blueprint of our Creator.

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