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ID 15322

Gene number and complexity, Eric Lander

Description:
Interviewee: Eric Lander Eric Lander talks about gene number and complexity.
Transcript:
Well it's not actually clear that we should have more genes than other organisms. You know, we like to think we're a lot more complex than other organisms, but when you think about it, a plant has a pretty tough job, it can't run away from anything, it sits there. And so it may have to invest very heavily in defense, and the defense may have to be very specific to the different pathogens it's going to meet and other attackers it's going to meet out in the, out in the world. So it may be that plants have large numbers of genes to deal with threats that we could deal with for example by running away, that's a possibility. We also have more sophisticated immune systems, and so with a small number of genes we can generate a lot of diversity to fight off pathogens. So I'm not sure that you should measure the complexity of an organism by the number of its genes. I mean take our brain, you know what, it takes some number of genes to set up a brain, but once you've invested in that number of genes to set up a brain, you can then rewire it in lots and lots of different ways.
Keywords:
whitehead institute,eric lander,interviewee,tough job,immune systems,pathogens,genes,attackers,large numbers,organisms,organism,complexity,different ways,dna,diversity,brain,evolution,plants
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