Aging bacteria could be useful to science, according to reports in news@nature, Science News and ScienceNOW, 1 Feb 2005.

Because bacteria reproduce by dividing into two apparently identical cells, which in turn divide into two identical cells, they have been considered to be immortal. However, a recent study of E. coli bacteria indicates they undergo the same slowdown in cellular processes seen in other types of cells that undergo an aging process and eventually die. E coli bacteria are shaped like rods and when they reproduce they split across the middle, so that each new cell has one end, or tip, from the original cell and a newly generated tip. When these cells next divide, one daughter cell will inherit the “old” tip, and the other daughter cell will inherit the “new” tip.

Eric Stewart, a microbiologist at the French medical research institute INSERM, analysed images of bacteria multiplying on a microscope slide. Using a computer program he was able to identify the tips of bacterial cells and track the reproduction rate of each newly formed cell. Cells that inherited older tips grew and reproduced more slowly than cells that inherited younger tips. The bigger the difference in age between the inherited tip and the newly generated tip, the slower the growth rate became. Scientists who study aging are hoping to use E. coli to study the aging process and understand how it is regulated.

Editorial Comment: This study is a sober reminder that we live in a world where all living organisms are subject to decay and death. The aging process begins when complex biological systems start to break down and eventually become simple chemical mixes at death.

This fits well with a Biblical history of a perfect created world which degenerated following the fall and Noah’s flood. This observed trend from complex to simple in even the simplest life forms, is however a major hurdle for claims that the world evolved from simple non-life chemical mixes to complex living systems.

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