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Mitochondria and Intelligent Design

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Postby alextemplet » Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:45 pm

Perhaps I am mistaken but as I understand it, the bacteria in our gut are essential to our ability to digest food, and thus we could not live without them, either.
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Postby genovese » Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:52 pm

Yes - there are many different types of bacteria which have different beneficial effects. Some do help to digest various sugars etc but the main digestion is done without them, so they compliment our digestion. There are many other beneficial effects on immunity of the gut for example, but you could live with a sterile gut, although it may lead you open to inflammatory bowel disease or infections. I certainly wouldn't advise you to sterilize your gut but having said all of that, you wouldn't exist for one second if you were to remove your mitochondria. (I believe cyanide is a mitochondrial poison)
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Nov 19, 2007 8:48 am

And so what? You can live longer without one than without the other? You'd still die without either.
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Postby genovese » Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:52 pm

It's not quite the same. Mitochondria arrived very early on and gave us the potential for evolution on a massive scale.

You can't live without oxygen so I suppose you would say that oxygen was as important as mitochondria for us being present on the planet.

But I would answer - that is why we took mitochondria on board- to survive the arrival of this toxic gas.

Our bodies can be killed by chemicals and infections and many things and so we wouldn't be here without our immune system.

Similarly we are born with a sterile gut.It is only after some time that our gut becomes colonized by bacteria and presumably our underdeveloped immune system at birth learns to accommodate, rather than reject, these creatures, which then protect us from other bacteria. It may well be that originally we managed all our digestion without them but have since come to rely on them.

Our bacteria flora can change, so it cannot be said that we are dependent on a specific gut bacterium. They are not "locked" into us, as are our mitochondria. In other words - you could survive without gut bacteria as do many patients who have had a total removal of the large bowel where the bacteria reside.
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Nov 19, 2007 4:20 pm

So we need a lot of things; mitochondria are hardly unique in being the only organelles we can't live without. And when has it been established that they really are another organism? Last I checked, the scientific community still considers them to be organelles, not organisms.
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Postby genovese » Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:07 pm

The origins of mitochondria have been thought about since the 1800s. Lynn Margulis published her theory, that they were related to bacteria rather than to other cellular structures found in the cells, in 1970. You are right to remind us that, unlike Evolution, it is still only a theory and not fact, but the evidence is pretty strong and I believe accepted by most Biologists. I can list the evidence for the theory if you so wish, but I expect that you have already read it all. Let me know.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:10 am

I'm not arguing with the theory at all; I am very familiar with it. I also agree that most biologists accept the theory that mitochondria originated as another organism living inside our cells. However, I believe (though I may be mistaken) that today's mitochondria are believed to be organelles, not organisms. It's sort of like two species merging into one, I believe.
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Postby genovese » Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:41 am

Fine - sorry I misunderstood you.

Yes I suppose that some will say that it is now an organelle but as it divides under its "own steam" rather than under orders from the nuclear DNA I would have thought that it was still special compared to other organelles. Perhaps in another million years it will become totally sub-servant to the host DNA and then we will not be able to recognize its origins and it will appear to be just another organelle and I won't be able to make such a fuss about it.

I would love to know if anyone has tried to collect mitochondria and attempted to make them live again as independent creatures. If you placed them in a correct environment with nutrients, would they be able to survive and for how long? Is there anybody out there who has done this?
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Postby canalon » Tue Nov 20, 2007 2:47 pm

genovese wrote:I would love to know if anyone has tried to collect mitochondria and attempted to make them live again as independent creatures. If you placed them in a correct environment with nutrients, would they be able to survive and for how long? Is there anybody out there who has done this?


I do not think it has been done, but considering the extensive transfer of functions towards the cell, I seriously doubt that you would get anything viable.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Nov 20, 2007 3:49 pm

I think Canalon is right; even though mitochondria do have some very unique traits compared to other organelles, they probably can't survive on their own and so I wouldn't classify them as a separate organism.
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Postby genovese » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:10 am

Canalon wrote "I do not think it has been done, but considering the extensive transfer of functions towards the cell, I seriously doubt that you would get anything viable".

If we know which DNA sequences have been transfered from mitochondria to host, would it not be possible (perhaps not desirable?) to copy them and place them back into the Mitochondrial DNA and would Mitochondria be "born again" as an independent creature? This might be too dangerous an experiment to perform in case it became wild and infectious for all living things leading to the development of an immune reaction against our own mitochondria.
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 21, 2007 5:29 pm

It would also even further reinforce the point that mitochondria are incapable of surviving outside the cell. This in my opinion would seal the case that they are organelles and not organisms.
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