This is the sort of thing that drives creationists crazy. At EurekAlert, the online news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we found Shared genetics in humans and roundworms shed light on infertility, Rutgers study finds.
Even the title will infuriate the gentle creationist folk. Shared genetics? That’s horrible! They’ll be shouting: I ain’t no kin to no roundworm! But it appears that they are. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
In a study published in Current Biology, Andrew Singson, a professor in the Department of Genetics in the School of Arts and Sciences, and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health and the College of William and Mary in Virginia, identified a protein, SPE-45, on the sperm of C. elegan [sic] worms that help bind sperm to eggs during fertilization. It is the same as the Izumo protein considered essential for humans and other mammals to reproduce that was discovered a decade ago by Japanese scientists who named it after a marriage shrine in Japan.
Wikipedia has a write-up on that species: Caenorhabditis elegans. They say it’s “a free-living (not parasitic), transparent nematode (roundworm), about 1 mm in length, that lives in temperate soil environments.”
This is the paper EurekAlert is talking about: Forward Genetics Identifies a Requirement for the Izumo-like Immunoglobulin Superfamily spe-45 Gene in Caenorhabditis elegans Fertilization. You need a subscription to see more than the abstract, so we’ll stay with EurekAlert. They say:
“Humans and worms are connected by a common ancestor that lived more than 700 million years ago and this discovery will give us insight into their shared genetics and fertility pathways,” said Singson, a principal investigator at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology.
The creationists are squirming. Let’s read on:
The research suggests that a common ancestor to both worms and humans had a SPE-45/Izumo-like gene that was required for sperm to function properly at fertilization, said Singson, who has been researching the biological process of fertility for the past two decades.
“Twenty years ago when we started this research, we predicted that we would find the genes that are required for fertility from worms to humans,” said Singson. “Now we know that this kind of molecule functions the same way beyond the mammalian branch of the tree of life.”
“Humbug!” say the creationists. “All this proves is that the designer likes to use his designs over and over.” Uh huh, and so does evolution. Skipping some discussion of infertility, we continue:
“The protein works like molecular Velcro and helps the sperm and egg bind and fuse,” said Singson. “This type of finding can play an indispensable role in understanding the biological process.”
Here’s one more excerpt:
Since studying human infertility directly is very challenging due to many ethical and experimental limitations, making a genetic connection between worms and humans will help in future treatments because scientists can do experiments in worms to learn more about the function of Izumo-like molecules that they cannot do in mammals, Singson said.
We’ll be looking to see if the usual creationist websites bother to even mention this research. In all likelihood, they’ll just ignore it. The thought that we may be related to roundworms is … well, it’s a bit more than they can handle.
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