Interviewee: John Sulston.
Nobel Laureate John Sulston speaks about the relationships between organisms, and why one organism can be a good model for another.
(DNAi Location: Manipulation > Techniques > Model organisms > Interviews >
Relationships between creatures)
The key thing to have in mind is the unity of life, if every life form were specially created as, as some believe, and they have no particular relationship to each other, then of course there wouldn't really be much value in studying more than the one you're actually interested in. But the truth is, that life is very, very unified and it's unified, all the indications are because of the evolutionary process, that it all goes back to a common ancestor four billion years ago. And it turns out that an awful lot of life processes have been conserved, so you can look in bacteria and find that half the genes have clear counterparts in the human being. You can look in the nematode, of its twenty thousand genes, half of them have clear counterparts in the human being, and all the way up it's the same. Nature is not reinventing, it's actually reusing and it does more than that, it reuses whole pieces of mechanism.
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A human is a complicated organism, and it is considered unethical to do many kinds of experiments on human subjects. For these reasons, biologists often use simpler “model” organisms that are easy to keep and manipulate in the laboratory.