November 13, 2008

Study Answers Darwinian Evolution Question

U.S. scientists have discovered the chains of proteins found in most living organisms act as adaptive machines, able to control their own evolution.

Princeton University researchers said their finding appears to offer evidence of a hidden mechanism that guides the way biological organisms respond to the forces of natural selection. That, they said, provides a new perspective on evolution.

Researchers Raj Chakrabarti, Herschel Rabitz, Stacey Springs and George McLendon made the discovery while conducting experiments on proteins constituting the electron transport chain, a biochemical network essential for metabolism.

A mathematical analysis of the experiments showed the proteins themselves acted to correct any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations and restored the chain to working order.

"The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a 'blind watchmaker'?" said Chakrabarti, an associate research scholar. "Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness."

The research was published in a recent edition of Physical Review Letters.