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No. 13: Winter 1981

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The Alien Presence

Hidden behind an obscure technical title is a most curious discovery. I.C. Eperon and his coworkers at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, England, have shown that "human mitochondria did not originate from recognizable relatives of present day organisms." The authors go even further, describing human mitochondria as a "radical departure."

(Eperon, I.C., et al; "Distinctive Sequence of Human Mitochondrial Ribosomal RNA Genes," Nature, 286:460, 1980.)

Comment. The inferences above may be far-reaching. Mitochondria are vital components in the cells of the so-called higher organisms. Apparently possessing their own genetic material, they are suspected of being descendants of an cient bacteria that invaded and took up residence in cells. If human mitochondria are radically different, could changes in mitochondria be the source of the purported wide gap between humans and other animals? Did the mitochondria change ("evolve") in existing ancient mammals, converting them suddenly into humans? Or did a new "species" of mitochondria infect terrestrial cells, perhaps coming to earth on cosmic debris, as Fred Hoyle has suggested?

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. � 1981-2000 William R. Corliss