Charles Darwin established the idea that evolution is a process of genes surviving on and spreading, in a survival of the literal fittest model. In July, researchers working in Spain reported the same evolutionary phenomenon happening within an organism.
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In the early stages of a mouse embryo’s development, cells which have a higher level of a protein called Myc tend to outdo cells with lower levels of the same protein. All the cells are healthy, but, according to Cristina Claveria of the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares in Madrid, the cells with lower levels of Myc die after coming in contact with higher levelled cells – and ‘donate’ their biochemical guts to the stronger cells.
“There’s communication between winners and losers, but which way the signal goes, we’re not sure”
The process of battle between the two cells takes about a week, after which all surviving cells produce the higher levels of Myc.
Myc is an important protein for the growth of any organism and has been implicated in certain Cancers, which is also a similar competition between cells. Claveria said there is further testing needed, but theorizes that cell expansion driven by Myc could be what sets the stage for future tumours.
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