The largest animal on Earth that can produce electricity is the electric eel. Up to 860 volts, which is sufficient to run a machine, can be released by it. In a recent study, researchers from Nagoya University in Japan discovered that microscopic fish larvae can be genetically modified by electric eels because they can release enough power. Their research was released in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ – Life and Environment.
Recognizing Nature’s Electroporation
The results of the study expand on our understanding of the gene delivery method known as electroporation. An electric field is used during electroporation to temporarily open cell membrane pores. This permits molecules to enter the target cell, such as proteins or DNA.
Professor Eiichi Hondo and Assistant Professor Atsuo Iida of Nagoya University oversaw the study team. They reasoned that current flowing through a river could have an impact on the cells of neighboring creatures. Environmental DNA, or DNA fragments found in water, can be incorporated by cells. They put the juvenile fish in their lab to the test by exposing them to a DNA solution containing a light-emitting marker to detect if the zebrafish had ingested the DNA. Next, they presented an electric eel and made it bite a feeder in order to release energy.
Electric Eels: Inherently Genetically Modifying Agents
Iida claimed that most people thought electroporation was a procedure that was exclusive to lab settings, but he wasn’t persuaded. “I believed that electroporation could occur naturally,” he remarked. “I realized that environmental DNA fragments released into the water would become foreign genes, causing genetic recombination in the surrounding organisms because of electric discharge,” the author wrote. “I realized that electric eels in the Amazon River could well act as a power source, organisms living in the surrounding area could act as recipient cells.”
Five percent of the larvae exhibited markers indicating gene transfer, the researchers found. “This suggests that the electric eel’s discharge enhanced the transfer of genes to the cells, despite the fact that eels’ pulse forms differ and their voltage is unstable in comparison to the devices typically utilized for electroporation,” stated Iida. “Genetic modification in nature may be impacted by electric eels and other electricity-generating organisms.”
Similar observations have been made by other research regarding the effects of naturally occurring fields, such lightning, on nematodes and soil microbes. Iida is ecstatic about the potential applications of electric field studies in living things. He thinks that the impacts go beyond what is known by the general public. He declared, “I think that efforts to find new biological phenomena based on such “unexpected” and “beyond-the-box” concepts will educate people about the intricacies of living things and lead to future scientific breakthroughs.”