Lasso-like image of Telomere

Telomeres: Better Than Your Shoelace Ends

A while back I was listening to a lecture for doctors on some new discoveries about our DNA and how it affects our health (boy, does it ever). A lot of the stuff made my eyes want to cross, but then the speaker explained something using words kids know all about.

She compared part of our DNA to the plastic tips of a shoelace. I’d tell you they were like Aglets, but did you know that’s what the end covers were called? Me, neither.

Black Shoelace

 

 

Telomeres [TEA-low-meerz] is the name a researcher gave these little end caps back in 1938. It took us many more decades to figure out what was going on, though. We’re still studying what affects them and how medicine can help us have healthy Telomeres.

So, what are they and how do they work? I found a great 2 minute video to explain things for you.

From the Smithsonian Channel:

Something I didn’t run into until searching for images of a Telomere is their shape. DNA doesn’t have room to stretch out straight inside a cell’s nucleus, it’s almost 6′ [2m] long! So it loops and twists in fascinating ways. So do Telomeres. Have a look at this photo:

Lasso-like image of Telomere

Click the picture to see The Cell Website I ran into

There’s a study from 1999 in the Journal CELL talking about this. The diagram showing how it fits together is quite interesting. I wonder why this info isn’t easier to find online. But, now you know!

To understand what’s going on even better, the University of Utah has a GREAT PAGE showing how the DNA letters repeat to hold the ends of the chromosome together and why they get shorter over time. Basically, the copier has to start with a bit of RNA in place already, so it can’t copy the letters where the RNA attaches. They did a great job making things easy to understand and have cool illustrations.

In fact, don’t read any further until you’ve CLICKED on their link and scroll down to the drawing of a technicolor Telomerase subunit. You can see an even more amazing illustration at the Telomerase Database website.

Now, tell me. Is that a simple, easy to slosh together piece of equipment? Or, is it something it would take a lot of smarts to design?

OK, what is that Telomerase? It is an enzyme (a protein to help the body do things) some cells use to rebuild their Telomeres.

DNA with bright spots of Telomeres at their ends

DNA with bright spots of Telomeres at their ends

Basically, after a cell has made about 50-70 copies of itself, the Telomeres get so short they don’t work properly. The cell recognizes this and shuts down. No new copies of that cell ever again. We now know this one of the things controlling how long we live.

Since we realized Telomeres are something to watch for, researchers have been doing a bunch of studies about how life can affect them.

When I started research for this article, I was hoping to find websites already designed for kids to understand what’s going on. But plugging in the keyword “kids” along with Telomere gave me some interesting results.

Turns out we know life can hit children’s Telomeres hard. Here are a few things that can give people shorter Telomeres and probably a shorter life:

  • Neglect: Kids raised in an institution instead of a home (even a foster home helps)
  • Family Trauma: Interestingly, they found girls had it worse
  • Rough Life: This study started out assuming boys would have a hard time. They did
  • Bullying: being bullied didn’t just rob you of your lunch money

It’s not only kids who develop shorter Telomeres from these kinds of problems. Studies have been done seeing if lifestyle changes can help adults protect their Telomeres. Here are some things they found keep them from shrinking or can even cause them to get longer:

  • Lower stress
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat healthy
  • Have good friends
  • Exercise

Several of the kids’ studies noticed that having a good mom helped protects kids’ cells. See how having good friends helped grownups, too? Turns out, taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally makes a real difference.

Hmm, it seems like there is an ancient guidebook recommending this kind of lifestyle to all of us. Perhaps the Author knew what He was talking about so long ago because He designed us- and our Telomeres.

Praise God, our Creator, who gave us such wonderful protections for our bodies and didn’t leave us alone to suffer when we rejected Him at the beginning!

Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. Psalm 119:73 

More soon!

 

Animal Family Reunion: Hybrids

Lambs

We’ve looked at how Biblical Creationists are said to believe in something called “Fixism” or, the idea that God created all creatures just as we see them today. Scientific observation will show anyone that idea can’t be true.

We also know Evolutionists believe every organism is part of one big family going back to a single ancestor (or very small group of single-celled ancestors). This also goes against everything we observe in science. Instead we see each creature having children close, but not identical, to their parents. Most of the time we have no problem saying they are part of the same species.

But sometimes things get really shaken up.

Genetic Relationships Among Human and Swine In...

 

We live in exciting times for Creation Science. With the help of DNA studies and all the scientific advances in the world, it is way easier to discover real family relationships. Even 50 years ago, most of what scientists had to go on was how a creature looked and acted. Today all kinds of organisms are being reclassified because we’ve found their genetics to be different from what we’d figured they had to be. (For an example, check out the confusion over the Giant Panda’s closest genetic neighbors).

BTW, what does this tell us about fossil creatures where we can’t possibly compare their genetics? How can anyone say it’s a fact that some things are related? They have no option but to assume the way the bones and other things look prove their case.

There is also a push right now to get a good idea of the kinds of animals God would have brought to Noah on the ark. This is an important thing to know. Did Noah need to take pairs from each of the 100,000+ species with him? If we thought he did, we would end up throwing out the whole story because there is no way they could all fit!

So, Answers in Genesis (who are saving up to build a full-sized replica of the Ark) and others are really studying these things. Here are some of the things they’ve found:

Swoose” Honking (Photo credit: OakleyOriginals)

 

  • Camels can have babies with Llamas (called a Cama, and are they cute!)
  • A Toothed Whale can have babies with a Dolphin (called a Wholphin)
  • A Swan and a Goose can have a baby (called a Swoose)

Many (but not all) of these hybrids can’t have babies themselves like a mule (a horse/donkey mix), but it does make you wonder. When the world was much closer to the “very good” condition God originally created and all creatures had a huge variety of genes for differences, could there have been one “super” creature for each of these groups?

What’s more interesting is when creatures separated by oceans can still have children together. When they can’t fly, like the camels and llamas, Uniformitarians will tell us they have been evolving apart for millions of years.

As with all origins science, we have to use our imaginations, make guesses, and try to check if our assumptions fit the facts. There were only a handful of eyewitnesses of the Flood, and no records of what the animals on board the Ark actually looked like!

They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. Genesis 7:14-15

For more, check out these articles:

Answers in Genesis:

Mammalian Ark Kinds (long, but lots of pictures)

Frog Kinds on the Ark (brand new!)

Creation’s Hidden Potential (a short talk about how Creation Scientists think about creatures changing)

Creation Ministries International:

Thinking biblically about termites and lizards

Ligers and wholphins? What next?

Identification of species within the cattle monobaramin (kind)

Beneficial Mutations: Stop Those Growth Hormones!

How would you like to have a mutation that makes you way less likely to get cancer or diabetes, allowing you to live longer than most of your relatives? There is one like this that scientists have discovered. It’s called Laron Syndrome.

But….

English: Kirnu, a steel roller coaster in Linn...

You have to accept never growing tall enough to ride loop-the-loop roller coasters and always needing a booster seat in the car. Why? Because people with Laron’s top out at less than 4 ft [122cm] tall.

(Read more about this in National Geographic’s article New Clues to a Long Life)

You’re not likely to be extra smart and can easily get hypoglycemic. It’s also going to be hard to keep your tiny figure trim and you won’t feel like exercising much. Your bones aren’t going to be very healthy either, but, hey, you’ll probably live a long time anyway!

closed gate

closed gate (Photo credit: airefresco)

Here’s what’s going on: Laron’s is caused by a mutation, you know, the things Evolutionists say help change a fish into a lizard. This one breaks one of the gates into your cells which lets growth hormones in (there is another form of this syndrome where the cells just can’t use the hormone properly).

Even grown ups need these hormones to keep their bones healthy and use the energy from food properly. People with Laron’s make a normal amount of growth hormone, but it doesn’t do them any good because the mutation stops it from getting where it’s supposed to go.

Now, here’s the big question: Is someone with this mutation, even if they live a long time, closer to a super evolved human?

Children at play

Children at play (Photo credit: cwarnercarey)

It’s a good thing God doesn’t wait until we’re perfect before He loves us. In the beginning, our DNA was perfect and allowed us to live for hundreds of years. But, this far from Adam’s disobedience we all carry a bunch of mutations. Some of them can be useful, or even pretty (like blue eyes), but none has ever been found to turn us into a higher organism.

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT

We’re only about 200 generations out from Adam. Just imagine how many mutations our descendants would collect by 1,000. But, God would still lavish His unfailing love on them!

Quotes: Aardvark

To accompany Aardvarks: Unique, Unchanging, Cool:

An aardvark at Detroit Zoo

“Aardvarks are a blast from the past. The genetics of the Aardvark goes back 160 million years, back to the Jurassic period” What Do Animals Eat?

Well, not that far back, but aardvarks do go back to just 6 days after the universe got started!

Antelope male looking up

“The aardvark is the last surviving member of an odd and primitive order of ungulates (hooved animals) and might have survived by evolving away from hooves, and developing the incredibly powerful claws it uses to dig sleeping burrows and devastate termite mounds. The aardvarks closest living relative is probably the elephant.” Animal Facts Encycolpedia

“Might have survived by evolving…”? We finally have a set of “fuzzy words” to work with! Sounds to me like they’re dreaming up a just so story.

Elephant shrew

Elephant shrew

Recent genetic studies (increasingly supported by morphological and palaeontological studies) have suggested that aardvarks are closely related to the dassies (hyraxes), elephants (proboscideans), golden-moles (chrysoclorids), manatees and dugongs (sirenians), tenrecs, and more closely the elephant shrews (macroscelids) Aardvark Africa.org

These genetic studies make fun reading. It used to be the only thing Evolutionists had to go on when putting together a “tree of life” was how something looked and acted. Now, things are getting completely reshuffled because of genetic studies.

Lego bricks

Here’s what they won’t think about. When a Lego (or any other) designer plans out a new item, do they make every piece from scratch? Not if they can help it. They repurpose and recycle perfectly good designs from other projects for the next one. Just because a lot of pieces are similar or even the same doesn’t mean one gave birth to the other.

You don’t have to have a common ancestor to have similar plans and parts, a common designer makes just as much sense, or really, way more sense!

I made the earth and all the people on it. I made all the animals on the earth. I did this with my great power and my strong arm. Jeremiah 27:5 Easy-to-read Version

Evolutionary Tree of Life Poster

Can Mutations Make New Things?

 

Let’s start with why this concept is so important:

Evolutionary Diagram

Evolutionary Diagram (Photo credit: thekirbster)

Evolutionists have only a few available tools to explain how things could change from tiny blobs to specialized “higher” organisms. Here’s their list:

  • Mutation
  • Migration (gene flow)
  • Genetic drift
  • Natural selection

Migration is the process of populations use to share different genes. Bacteria can do this directly. People do this when dad is from a different group than mom; their children usually become a blend of features.

But migration doesn’t produce anything new. It just describes spreading existing genetics around evenly.

Genetic drift is rather sad. It says some perfectly healthy organisms never get to be parents. Their genetics are lost just because of some sort of accident.

Still no new information.

Natural selection is a way of saying only organisms with healthy enough bodies can have children. If something goes wrong too badly, they will be eaten or get too sick to ever become parents.

Yup, still no new information.

This only leaves mutations to carry the whole load of creating a new organism unlike anything before it (if Evolution were true). Let’s see if they can handle the pressure.

A mutation is a mistake in a creature’s DNA. DNA uses a code of just 4 letters to program everything the cells in every body need to grow and function. It seems too simple to work properly, but computers use a code of just 2 letters- 0 and 1 to do everything, so 4 gives DNA plenty of options to work with.

copy machine

copy machine (Photo credit: Yuba College Public Space)

The human DNA set (genome) has around 3 billion “base pairs” or letters in it. That’s a huge amount of data for a cell to use and this is where mutations get their chance. Every cell has to copy all those letters when it divides. If something doesn’t get copied exactly right, it is a mutation.

DNA works like a written language, but with very different grammar. Every DNA “word” is exactly 3 base pairs long, so it doesn’t need spaces to tell you when the word ends. It also uses special codes to tell when the end of a “sentence” happens, but for mutations, the words are the most important to understand.

There are several different kinds of mutations:

  • Switching one letter for another
  • Deleting a letter
  • Sticking in an extra letter
  • Duplicating letters

To see how these mutations would work in English, check out this fun page at Genetic Health: Mutations in DNA.

Deleting and adding a single letter can mess up a whole area of DNA if it doesn’t happen right at the end of a section. Unless you lose exactly 3 letters, everything from the mutation on changes completely. Muscular dystrophy can be caused by a “frameshift” mutation like this.  Many of the problems a developing baby can have are caused by these kinds of mutations.

a hospital room (Denmark, 2005)

Some of the best known mutations are caused by a single letter switch. Sickle cell anemia with horrible problems including pain, a weak immune system and other serious problems is caused by one of these “single point mutations” where a letter is traded out for a different one.

Other mutations are caused by a small set of added letters. Huntington’s disease (a serious brain disorder) is caused by extra copies of a single 3 letter word. Tay-Sachs disease causes death within a few years of birth by not having a working cell cleaning enzyme. The enzyme can be messed up by a number of mutations, some removing letters or sections and others adding a few base pairs. You can learn a lot about how the enzyme is supposed to work HERE.

All of these problems are enough to make you cry, but this is what mutations do in the real world. When I looked around for examples of “beneficial mutations” or, mutations which do good things, I found Sickle Cell Anemia as one of the best cases. There’s one other which can protect you from getting AIDS by breaking a cell entry point, but it also leaves you with a high chance of developing a serious liver disease.

These were the only two human mutations (out of more than 100,000 known) I’ve run into which are supposed to be good for us. Other examples show how creatures can lose switches to turn processes on or off.  These changes can help them survive things like antibiotics or pesticides. But they are not going to help them turn into anything new or even survive better in ordinary situations.

Scientists have never once seen a mutation create something new. If they had, you would hear about it all the time and run into it in every Evolution textbook. But, nature serves its true master, the Creator God!

But ask the animals, and they will teach you.
    Or ask the birds of the air, and they will tell you.
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you.
    Or let the fish in the sea tell you their wisdom.
Everyone knows
    that the Lord made these things. Job 12:7-9 Easy-to-read Version

High School Genetics Textbook

Description: This image shows the coding regio...

the coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA.

I’m researching Evolution for my book, which is a lot harder than the rest has been. Life and the rules for why creatures look and behave the way they do is mind-bogglingly complicated! Added to that, explanation about how life started and developed is at the core of the battle for our minds and hearts.

In the past I’ve wrestled with issues like, “are we all just a bunch of mutants, or did God design variation into our DNA?” But it’s been hard to find solid answers.

Today I ran into a paper from the Journal of Creation which is powerful and answers a lot of my questions. It’s quite long and fairly complicated, but not so eye-crossing as to be worthless to a non-scientist.

I’m posting the link here and will add this article to my For Teens page because if you really get what Dr. Robert W. Carter is saying, you will understand how biologists can accept God as Creator! You will also have a better grasp of genetics than the vast majority of people.

Can mutations create new information?

English: FRIENDS

I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well. My substance was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, yet being unperfect; and in your book all my members were written, which in their day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! Psalm 139:14-17

Science in the Bible: We know why Ham’s Kids Moved Where They Did!

black and white student clasping hands

Question: did people move south and grow dark skins and such to adapt to the heat/sunshine, or did they move south because the already had dark skins/better cooling systems?

For those new to CS4K, you can catch up with my thoughts reading these posts:

Why do we look the way we do?

Mutants R us?

This morning my dear pastor husband preached on the genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth.  Among many excellent points, he brought out the symbolic meanings of each member’s name.  This got me thinking about a few other names, especially our great, great ancestors: Noah’s sons.

Hello my name is

Shem’s name means “name” and is used a lot to say, “and his shem was Jared” etc.  But it can also mean “reputation” or “famousness.”  The use of this word that jumped out at me was in Genesis 11:4 where the Babelites said, “let us make a shem for ourselves” with our tower.

Japheth’s (father of us pale faces) name means open, enlarged, or even enticing (as open arms invite a hug).  The only reference that was any help is in Genesis 9:27.  Noah blesses Japheth by saying, “God shall japheth Japheth.”  Cool, but not too enlightening.

Sweltering Summer Sunset - Cell Phone Shot fro...

Then we come to Ham.  His name means “hot.”  There are only two uses of his name as a general noun.  The first is in Joshua 9:12 talking about hot bread and the second in Job 37:17 where Elihu points out that your clothes feel hot when the south wind blows.

So what’s so special about Ham meaning hot?  Look at where his kids settled.  Basically, if your ancestors don’t come from Northern Asia, Europe or the Middle East, you are a descendant of Ham.  Some of his children did move to the Arctic as the Inuit and far eastern Siberians, as well as to the high mountains of the world.  But most of Ham’s children moved where it is usually what kind of climate?  Hot.

This give Biblical proof to my premise that we do not all look the way we do because we are mutants.  God designed us this way from the time of the Flood!

DNA Quotes and Activities

Title: DNA under an electron microscope Image ...

DNA under an electron microscope

To go along with DNA for dummies? or for the FBI?

From Wikipedia: DNA, “However, there is no direct evidence of ancient genetic systems, as recovery of DNA from most fossils is impossible. This is because DNA will survive in the environment for less than one million years and slowly degrades into short fragments in solution.”  I think that’s the understatement of the year!

Check this out: if you want to extract DNA from a specimen to study, here’s how to do it, “Using ice-cold water and ice-cold alcohol will increase your yield of DNA. The cold water protects the DNA by slowing down enzymes that can break it apart.” from Learn Genetics U. of Utah.  There’s no way students were taking anything close to a million years to try to extract their DNA samples!

More articles on how long DNA could last; ICR: Intact DNA Discovered in Ancient Salt Deposits

Mummified Forest Highlights Post-Flood Ice Age

Dick Tracy Secret Code Maker

“We all know that elephants only give birth to little elephants, giraffes to giraffes, dogs to dogs and so on for every type of living creature. But why is this so?” from the National Human Genome Research Institute.  The US Government is Creationist!

You can make some origami DNA. If you do it right, you’ll have a cool model. Even if you don’t, you’ll see a little bit of how much work God put into inventing it!

For more secret code fun have a look at these sites:

Indigo Image: Secret Messages, Fancy Folding 

Wikihow: How to Make a Secret Code

Martha Stewart: Secret Codes  this one has the paper towel roll coder that I remember when I was a girl

If you want to learn lots more about the cell, have a look at this page from shmoop a site for (high school? college?) students.  They have great pictures and are fun to read, you’ll just have to turn off the ad pop-up.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever. Psalm 145:21

Graphic: DNA Splitting

DNA for dummies? or for the FBI?

Lego DNA I made for my wife's science class

Lego DNA

I know, I know, it’s Summer and the last thing you want to do is more “school work.”  But the past two weeks of Creation Today Shows’ interviews with Jay Seegert of the Creation Education Center have been so amazing I had to figure out a way to inspire you to watch or listen to them.  So I decided to write up a study guide.  I promise, once you’ve listened and answered the questions, you will know more about DNA than the vast majority of people out there without crossing your eyes (just blowing your brain)!

Here’s your assignment Part 1:  Listen to this episode of Creation Today Show:  Is Evolution Probable or Problematic? and fill in the blanks.

  • Evolution requires lots of _____________ and ________________ to explain how living things came to be
  • Mutations happen when something changes in a creature’s ________

BTW I wasn’t able to find how much DNA is in a teaspoon, or if this is the amount in one person or many.  Turns out a single cell holds over 5ft [1.5m] or some say as much as 3m [nearly 10ft]! So, the DNA in a single adult would reach if stretched out end to end. It would stretch to the __________ and back ___________ times (or around the ________ 2.5 million times)!

  • How is DNA like this phrase, “was it a rat I saw?” _______________
  • How is DNA more complicated than a palindrome?___________________________
  • Is this something that is easily and naturally done?  Can computer whizzes do it? ______

The analogy he gives here is especially enlightening.  Share with someone in your own words…

  • Is a mutation likely to add helpful meaning to this?____ Why? _________
  • How long are DNA reversing codes? A. a single word B. a sentence C. a paragraph D. a chapter E. more than a chapter
DNA

DNA (Photo credit: Allen Gathman)

This has already started to show you how good God is at making “secret” codes.  Now we’re really going to see how amazing His code system is!How is DNA like some Wheel of Fortune puzzles? ____________.  If you don’t know Wheel of Fortune, they spell out phrases like Jay Seegert does at this point.  If you like brain quizzes, HERE’s a set of these type of puzzles to try to solve.

OK, you can skip the last couple of minutes since it’s just closing notes.

Now on to Part 2 More DNA evidence for special creation, problems for evolution! (You can skip the first 6 minutes if you want)

  • Next level of “secret” codes in DNA: ________ bits of DNA and ________ing them together to get new info
  • How big are the sections that get spliced? Whole ________ and __________
  • Another level of information picks up pieces at regular intervals and forms ___________
  • What do mutations do to this coding system? _________________ Is this helpful? _____

Now we’re getting to real FBI stuff!

  • DNA includes data _____________________ to add more info

Here’s a whole different way of looking at the complexity of DNA

  • How long did it take you to learn to read English?  Did it happen randomly without any teachers?  DNA uses symbols to represent real things much like our alphabet (although God only needed 4 letters to do it!)
  • DNA not only has an alphabet, it also forms words using ____________ rules much like we have to study!

Back to the data encryption:

  • To solve an encryption puzzle, you have to have the _______
  • Is this possible without a programmer?

Now you know more about DNA than most _____________.  Who are they putting their faith in? ___________________

(I don’t know about you, but I love their Genesis Series ad!! Way cool stuff!)

Four-way DNA junction

Four-way DNA junction

  • The Third level of information has to be read in __ __ (you can make a sample like this by following Wikihow’s instructions, writing a code on the finished shape and then unfolding it!)
  • There’s a backup system of info in the Cell _______ that double checks what comes out of the nucleus to make sure things match up so if something changes
  • If our DNA actually was only 2% different from a Chimp (it’s really way more than that), how many “spelling errors” would it take to produce a human being? ____________
  • These changes would fill _________ books of _____ pages each!

Wow!  I don’t know about you but this makes me want to get up and sing to our Super-Smart Creator God!!

We’re learning more about the 3D nature of DNA all the time. Here’s an article from ICR on discoveries reported in 2013: New Twist in DNA Turns Heads, Genes

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honor of your majesty, and of your wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of your terrible acts: and I will declare your greatness. Psalm 145:3-6

Don’t miss today’s Quotes and more!