Forget human-robot hybrids. Human-yeast hybrids can do so much more, and they’re now more science than fiction.
Before you start fantasizing about a doughy blob taking over the housecleaning — or the world — chew on this: New scientific evidence shows that humans and yeast share a lot more genetically than you might imagine. And it has huge medical implications.
Scientists have wrapped up a nearly three-year study of the similarities between genes found in humans and those found in common baker’s yeast, a fungus. The results were published recently in the journal Science, and reported by NPR and others.
The research shows that yeast and humans share a common genetic past, and that hundreds if not thousands of our genes still appear and behave in the same ways.
“Humans and yeast are doing not only the same thing as each other, but the same thing that their last common ancestor a billion years ago was doing,” said biologist Edward Marcotte from the University of Texas at Austin, who spearheaded the study. “It’s changed remarkably little over all of that time.”
The researchers tested the similarities by replacing some yeast genes in a cell with human ones. Instead of dying off, the human-yeast hybrid cells performed extremely well, with little to no change in functionality.
The study has vast implications for the future testing, treatment, and possible eradication of genetic diseases in people. And it’s evidence that we can spare animals from laboratory torture by testing on yeast, instead.
It’s also an elegant reminder that all living things on Earth are related. Sometimes much more closely than we’d guess.