Scientists discovered a large DNA structure deep in the mud in California wetlands. Scientists name the structure as a Borg which belongs to a single-celled organism and carries many genes that are unknown to science.
It is not clear what these massive strings of DNA do, but they may help supercharge the organisms’ ability to break down chemicals in the soil. Jillian Banfield, geomicrobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, the senior author tweeted that they haven’t been this excited about a discovery since CRISPR. CRISPR is the big gene-editing technology that is based on a natural defence mechanism found in bacteria.
Banfield’s son suggested naming the structures Borgs after the famous Star Trek aliens, who gather and assimilate the technology and knowledge of other alien species. Senior author and her team discovered the Borgs while digging deep in California’s wetlands for fragments of DNA that are involved in the carbon cycle, the process by which carbon is recycled through the environment, according to Nature. They found 19 different types from California and similar areas in Colorado.
The early shows that the newfound structures are a type of extrachromosomal element DNA stored outside of an organism’s chromosomes, which are tightly-packed structures that house the majority of an organism’s genes.Microbes can share many different ECEs to carry out useful functions that aren’t necessarily essential, such as antibiotic resistance. ECEs are viruses or plasmids, which are tiny DNA molecules that can be found in bacteria, and that give some kind of genetic advantage to bacteria such as antibiotic resistance.