The hologenome: A new view of evolution

New Scientist magazine,  January 12, 2013

Author: New Scientist

new_scientist_JAN2013

The hologenome theory of evolution, and its development by Cambia CEO Richard Jefferson, featured in the January 12th Cover Story of New Scientist magazine.

DISPOSING of corpses can be tricky. Bury them in a shallow grave and hungry animals are liable to dig them up. Our body faces a somewhat similar problem when it comes to disposing of unwanted substances. One of the ways the liver purifies blood is by adding the equivalent of a “chuck this out” label to molecules, but this label is made of a kind of sugar – and the bugs in our gut have a sweet tooth. Some produce a special enzyme that allows them to cut off the sugar and eat it, which often results in compounds being recycled within the body rather than disposed of. Back in the 1980s, Richard Jefferson used the enzyme to develop a powerful technique now relied upon by thousands of genetic engineers around the world. At the same time, he was intrigued by the enzyme’s normal role. Its recycling effect helps determine the blood levels of many compounds, including important substances such as sex hormones. Jefferson realised that the bacteria within us, far from being passive hangers-on, must affect us in profound ways…

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