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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Discovered: The Brain's Waste Disposal System

Posted by on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 8:01 AM

From Dawkins' blog:

A previously unrecognized system that drains waste from the brain at a rapid clip has been discovered by neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The findings were published online August 15 in Science Translational Medicine.
By the way, Richard Dawkins was in my dreams last night, and James Noonan was in my dreams in the previous night. I can't recall the details of the Dawkins dream (though the mood of the dream was not cheerful), but the Noonan one was about his research of the non-coding regions of DNA. This area used to be called "junk DNA" because no one knew what the fuck it did. Now we are learning that it contains sequences that regulate the expression of genes. In 2008, one such sequence, HAC-NS1, was discovered by Noonan, whose lab is at Yale, to control the development of the human hand in way that's different from the hand of a chimpanzee and other primates. The importance of this work for me, and this is something Noonan expressed in a short lecture titled The Genetics of Humanness, is that changes in the regulatory sequences are more likely to influence evolution than changes in coding genes. The simple reason for this is a change in the former is far less dangerous than one in the latter. The reason why this is interesting to me is because it takes some more air out of the kind of the gene-centered (evolutionary change happens by mutations of genes) thinking that Dawkins represents and my favorite biologists and philosophers reject.


Comments (5) RSS

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zombie eyes 1
Hmm, I'd suspected reading Slog was the brains method of waste disposal.
Posted by zombie eyes on August 21, 2012 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 2
Nope. That would be writing for Slog. Especially in Mudede's case.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 21, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
Actually, changes like this tend not to be one thing turning on and only one thing happening, but a viable change is when one thing turns on and - since other portions are already in go position - the entire regulatory chain kicks in.

Be careful, though. Turning on things can have interesting side effects. Like cell bleeding, biochemical imbalances, etc.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Chronos Tachyon 4
PZ Myers gave a good talk about non-coding DNA. Short version: most of it really is junk. 5% is functional (genes, useful RNAs, regulatory regions), 10% is structural (centromeres and telomeres), 45% is parasitic (LINEs, SINEs, endogenous retroviruses, transposons), and the remaining 40% is probably pure garbage.
Posted by Chronos Tachyon on August 21, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
Skye Blu 5
"A... system that drains waste from the brain at a rapid clip"- this would be called "the mouth" yes?
Posted by Skye Blu on August 21, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this

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