NPR

Biologists Trace Genetic Roots Of Evolution, One Cell At A Time

E.coli bacteria, each cell trapped in a tiny tube, are giving researchers the chance to study the pace and effects of single genetic mutations. Most mutations, the scientists find, aren't harmful.
Colored transmission electron micrograph of a section through an Escherichia coli bacterium. This rod-shaped bacterium moves via its hair-like flagellae (yellow). Source: Kwangshin Kim

Genetic mutations are the driving force of evolution, and now scientists have managed to study the effect of mutations in exquisite detail by watching what happens as they pop up in single cells.

Only about one percent of mutations were bad enough to kill off the cell, according to a published Thursday in . Most of the time, these small changes in its DNA appeared to have no

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min readSociety
How A Former Child Bride Got A Fatwa Against Child Marriage
It happened in Senegal last week, at a conference organized by young Africans to address the issues of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Here's the story behind the fatwa.
NPR4 min readSociety
'You Don't Own Me,' A Feminist Anthem With Civil Rights Roots, Is All About Empathy
Ever since a 17-year-old Lesley Gore sang it in 1963, the coolly mutinous song has moved women to reject passive femininity. Its writers, though, say there are layers of resistance in its words.
NPR4 min read
'When We Were Arabs' Is A Nostalgic Celebration Of A Rich, Diverse Heritage
Author Massoud Hayoun has Moroccan, Egyptian and Tunisian heritage — and is also Jewish. He weaves in his family history with the politics that shaped their lives, including European oppression.