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DNA dethroned? Evidence mounts for evolutionary material that’s not genetic

dog-with-crownYeah, DNA, you’re pretty great. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it.

Who hasn’t heard that you hold the blueprint for life, the genetic code, that you’re the building blocks, the yadda-yadda key to the biomedical yadda yadda, ad infinitum?

But guess what? When it comes to inheritance, you are not the only game in town.

You say: Whaaat?

I say: Listen up. Stanford prof Dan Jarosz, PhD, and his team just figured out that prions, yes prions, those shady proteins that cause mad cow disease, are secret agents of evolution. And that some prions are good guys, helping the cells they “infect” survive tough times. And that this also happens in yeast, and very likely in other living things — including humans, yes, humans.

So, DNA, got your interest? The whole tale is in this Stanford Medicine press release, and Jarosz spills the scientific details in Cell.

Previously: Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin: Stanford researchers reflect on evolution and An evolutionary look at cancer
Photo by Bryce Glass

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