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Researchers have studied the evolution of reproduction
Our type of reproduction is associated with some health risks and yet many different organisms have developed this method of reproduction in the course of evolution. The question is where the evolutionary benefits of this type of reproduction lie. The results of a new study now indicate that this form of reproduction protects against certain types of cancer.
The latest research by the Université de Montpellier and the University of Tasmania found that our type of reproduction appears to protect against certain types of cancer. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "PLOS Biology".
Advantages of asexual reproduction
Asexual reproduction does not require a partner, so it is much faster and easier. It requires less energy and would be much cheaper in terms of people because there are no costs when looking for a partner. However, there are several reasons that still speak for sexual reproduction. It involves two parents and thus prevents the transmission of harmful gene mutations. It also helps to build resistance to pathogens and parasites.
Why do so many organisms prefer sexual reproduction?
The new study looked at why 99 percent of eukaryotes prefer sexual reproduction. The researchers argue that it could stop so-called cheater cells or transmissible cancer cells. Some animals, including dogs, Tasmanian devils, and certain mussels, have rare communicable cancers. Cheater cells endanger the rest of a cell population by exploiting the community of cells for selfish purposes, the researchers explain.
Risks of asexual reproduction
Many organisms have developed to prevent cancer as much as possible. This is done using processes such as those of the immune system. However, in order to survive and multiply, the first multicellular organisms had to fight both internal cheater cells and infectious malignant cells from outside. As asexual reproduction produces identical organisms, this increases the risk of being infected by communicable cancers, the authors of the study report.
Benefits of sexual reproduction
Sexual reproduction not only reduces the likelihood that an organism will get an infection, but also that this infection will pass on to its children. Communicable cancers are also less likely to be compatible with their host's cells if they were sexually produced. This could help the immune system to track down and kill dangerous intruders faster. The high prevalence of sexual reproduction in nature indirectly suggests that the selective forces behind the evolution of the sex must be very strong, the researchers explain.
Sexual reproduction increases survival of the offspring
Since processes that cause tumors in multicellular organisms are omnipresent and the possible transmission routes for intruders are diverse, evolution seems to favor sexual reproduction in order to create viable offspring with improved survival despite the associated risks, according to the authors. They hope that the findings from the current research work will help pave the way for research into the underestimated role of so-called oncogenic processes in the design of the biology, ecology and evolution of their multicellular hosts.
Sex has been very beneficial in the course of evolution
Another study by the Institute of Biophysics at the University of Cologne has now found, based on model calculations, that asexual reproduction wears out the basic cell machinery more than was actually assumed. This is one reason why sex has proven particularly beneficial in the course of evolution, the researchers report in a press release on the study results. Mutations in reproductive sex without intercourse have much more negative effects than previously known. Most organisms therefore reproduce through sex, which results in a combination of two genomes to a new individual.
Sexual reproduction can repair cell wear and tear
The study particularly analyzed the physics within bacterial cells. Proteins and their biochemical processes are the basis of cells for life. Proteins perform various tasks in cells, such as the transport of molecules, they catalyze chemical reactions and recognize signaling substances. The study was designed to find out what effects mutations in cell genes have on wear. The results were clear: asexual reproduction increased the wear effect of the mutation many times compared to previously created models of evolution. Sexual reproduction, on the other hand, can even repair cell wear and tear. For this, genes from both parents are combined, researchers explain.
Better understanding leads to optimized therapies
Cancer cells develop during human life. However, these dangerous cells do not recombine their genome. In other words, these cells reproduce completely without sex. If such processes are better understood, this also leads to a better understanding of the weaknesses of cancer cells in reproduction. This could lead to improved therapies for cancer in the future. The results of the study by the research team at the University of Cologne can be found in the English-language journal "Nature Communications". (as)