Thursday, December 15, 2011

Transgenerationally Acquired Resistance?

A new article by Rechavi et al, in the journal Cell ( is reporting on research involving the introduction of a flockhouse virus into a nematode, which then triggered an immune response to suppress the virus. This response, apparently was then transmitted to its offspring in a non-Mendelian fashion. As the authors put it:
We have described here a series of genetic experiments that provide support for the existence of non-Mendelian, multigenerational inheritance of extrachromosomal information. This information is transmitted in the form of small RNAs, viRNAs, which are induced by an episode of viral replication and which are propagated through the germline in a non-template-dependent manner. Our results therefore support the Lamarckian concept of the inheritance of an acquired trait.
This will, no doubt, raise eyebrows and spawn a number of independent tests to confirm the results. Cornelius Hunter hopped on the bandwagon, writing:
This is of course reminiscent of the pre Darwin theory proposed by Jean Baptiste Larmarck that evolution occurs via traits developing not via random change but in response to need, and then the passing of these traits to later generations. Evolutionists harshly criticized, ridiculed and blackballed Larmarckism in the last century but now even they are finding it difficult to deny the accumulation of evidence.
Three things Hunter overlooks here is that Lamarck came up with his theory of acquired inheritance in absence of any other model out there to explain biological descent with modification, he was looking at large order traits such as appendage length, hair color and whatnot and that, despite some growing evidence for epigenetic evolution, there is still a vast amount of evidence for evolution based on the well-heeled processes of mutation, selection, drift and flow. It should, nonetheless, be interesting to see what comes of this.

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