Tuesday, 24 Apr, 2007 Science

Worms and Humans Are One Family


From now on if someone says that 'you think like a worm', it would not be that offensive. As a matter of fact, it is now a scientific fact, as results of a research of the European laboratory for molecular biology in Heidelberg show that the human brain and the entire human nervous system finds its roots in the most primitive creatures - such as worms and insects.

The human brain has always been a very attractive object for research for almost any area of science, be it genetics, or be it paleontology. As for genetics, it has found that the human brain is in a continuous process of evolution and people in the 21st century are more developed than their ancestors. Two years ago paleontologists made a sensational discovery: they dug out a petrified brain. And here we are today with the molecular biologists saying that we are direct relatives with worms and insects - how encouraging!

German biologists have run a series of tests with prehistoric sea-worms (Platynereis dumerilii). After scrupulously analyzing all the information they have recreated how the nervous system of such an organism is born. The conclusion was shocking: the same way as humans'! Hence the conclusion that our brain is undoubtedly connected with those cells, which are used by worms to 'think'.

Experts state that this discovery is more important than some might fancy. It is well known that invertebrate animals have much in common with vertebrates (including us - humans) and that we all have some common ancestors; yet there remained one question to be answered: did our nervous system evolve by itself or we inherited it from those common ancestors - some slimy worms or reptiles, or whatever else it might have been? Now we see that the second option is true.

One should not be confused and think that worms have the same brain as other animals have, because we speak of the origins of the nervous system, not its structure. It is worth mentioning that a worm's brain has absolutely nothing in common with the human's brain, as it is made of the so-called ganglion cells , which are positioned along their whole body and form a nervous chain. Additionally, the chain is not situated on the back, as the vertebrates do, but on their belly. The scientists are very surprised themselves, however, to have made this discovery, as there are tremendously many changes necessary, to produce a nervous system similar to ours. And there are still no explanations provided to how this was actually possible - the explanations, probably, will be the next sensational discovery.

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