Electricity from eels can transfer genetic material

by time news

2023-12-11 14:16:45



Researchers of the Nagoya University have discovered that electric eels can alter the genes of small larvae of fish through electric shocks.

The electric eel is the largest energy-generating creature on Earth. It can release up to 860 volts, enough to run a machine. In the new study, published in PeerJ – Life and Environmentit was discovered that they can release enough electricity to genetically modify small fish larvae

The researchers’ findings add to what is known about electroporation, a gene delivery technique. Electroporation uses an electric field to create temporary pores in the cell membrane. This allows molecules, such as DNA or proteins, to enter the target cell.

The research group based their research on the fact that if electricity flows through water, it could affect the cells of organisms close to the eels.

To test this, they exposed young fish in their lab to a DNA solution with a marker that glowed in light to see if they had taken up the DNA. Then, they introduced an electric eel and they encouraged her to bite a feeder to discharge electricity.

According to co-author Professor Atsuo Iida, electroporation is commonly considered a process only found in the laboratory, but he was not convinced.

“I thought electroporation could occur in nature. I realized that electric eels in the Amazon River could act as an energy source, organisms living in the surrounding area could act as recipient cells, and the environmental DNA fragments released in the water would become foreign genes, causing genetic recombination in surrounding organisms due to an electrical discharge,” he said. it’s a statement.

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The researchers found that 5% of the larvae had markers showing gene transfer.

“This indicates that the electric eel discharge promoted gene transfer into the cells, even though the eels have different pulse shapes and unstable voltage compared to the machines commonly used in electroporation,” Iida said. “Electric eels and other organisms that generate electricity could affect genetic modification in nature,” he added.

Other studies have observed a similar phenomenon that occurs with lightning strikes, which affect nematodes and soil bacteria.

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