Resistance is futile: Scientists discover "Borg DNA" that can assimilate genes from other organisms and I guess 2020 never really ended.
· · Jul 19, 2021 ·

I would add "Massive DNA ‘Borg' structures perplex scientists" among sentences I would prefer not exist.

As it turns out, these "Borgs" are not from Star Trek, but are extremely large ECEs, or extrachromosomal elements. These are strands of DNA or RNA that typically exist outside of the nucleus of a cell (and are regardless independent of it) that can still perform important biological functions for the organism.

A common example of an ECE in humans is the mitochondrial DNA that exist in the plasma of human cells and are responsible for the ultimate conversion of food into adenosine triphosphate (which cells can use for energy).

But mitochondrial DNA is NOT considered a "Borg" ECE (and does not explain Mark Zuckerberg, so stop thinking that right now).

Okay, you can think that a little bit.

While "Borgs" appear to be a kind of oversized ECE, their real distinguishing feature is the ability to take over all life on Earth and bend it to its collective will.

I mean, the ability to assimilate genes from other organisms. That's what I meant to say.

The Borg have landed — or, at least, researchers have discovered their counterparts here on Earth. Scientists analysing samples from muddy sites in the western United States have found novel DNA structures that seem to scavenge and ‘assimilate' genes from microorganisms in their environment, much like the fictional Star Trek ‘Borg' aliens who assimilate the knowledge and technology of other species.

Can Borgs be harnessed to battle the existential threat of white supremacy?

Don't be ridiculous.

How about climate change?

Now you're on to something.

These Borgs have been found in methane-digesting archaea (a domain of single-celled organisms) and appear to enhance that function.

One potential application that the researchers see for Borgs could be as an aid in the fight against climate change. Fostering the growth of microbes containing them could, perhaps, cut down the methane emissions generated by soil-dwelling archaea, which add up to about 1 gigatonne globally each year.

There are some concerns about this.

It would be risky to do this in natural wetlands, Banfield says, but it might be appropriate at agricultural sites. So, as a first step, her group is now hunting Borgs in Californian rice paddies.

What could go wrong?


There are 34 comments on this article.

Ready to join the conversation? Start your free trial today.

Access comments and our fully-featured social platform, completely free of charge.

Sign up Now
App screenshot

You must signup or login to view or post comments on this article.