‘Gene’: Pluralism in singularity & the ballad of life.

image courtesy: Google

“We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment”- Richard Dawkins

A few years back, I had an opportunity to go through the book entitled ‘Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny’ written by Prof. Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate economist, I have collected the bouquet of pluralism in singularity. He has deeply explored the economics and sociology for the welfare of the millions. He has nicely pointed out the multiple existences of one individual as pluralistic in execution. I quote from Prof. Sen, “In our normal lives, we see ourselves as members of a variety of groups-we belong to all of them. The same person can be, without any contradiction, an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a women, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a schoolteacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theater lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician and someone who is deeply committed to the view that there are intelligent beings in outer space with whom it is extremely urgent to talk — — “. So what about gene? Let us go back to the one of the greatest thinkers, Charles Darwin who revolutionized the world by “Origin of the species by means of natural selection” doctrine and explored the need of variation in the survival of the fittest. In 1866,Gregor Johann Mendel, another mathematician cum naturalist( Plant breeders) being a monk explored the cause of variation by radiating the concept of unit characters along with the segregation, dominance and re-assortment of unit characters in course of generations transmission the reproductive biology of pea plant. In physical world, Scientist Dalton suggested the matter as atoms and scientist Planck treated light as coming in lumps. Hugo Marie de Vries(1848–1935), notable geneticist explored the biological world by stating that “The specific characters of organisms composed of separate unit” by a series of brilliant experiments of hybridization (through mutation) of plant species. The hereditary unit “pangens” did not obey the species barrier and to give rise the contradictory characters.” Time and tide wait for none” and it is also in scientific research. 92 natural elements are made of the different combinations of sale particles-electrons, protons and neutrons and in the biological world, the different species are the outcome of the different combinations of very similar genes. Now what is gene?

According to Nobel laureates( molecular physicists cum biologists), James Watson & Francis Crick, the genes (polynucleotide) are made of DNA molecules where A pairs with T and G with C and this molecule have the pleasure of auto catalytic and hetero-catalytic properties to replicate itself and to make the avenue of proteins as a unit of character in organisms. Error seldom happen (mutation) making a road of change in course of speciation. Who can forget the dark lady of DNA-Rosalind Franklin? Another definition of gene is De Vries’s interchangeable part that advocated the similarity of genes with the fly, worm and human being. The body plan of the fruit fly has been imitated by the mouse and human being. Even the power of learning and memory has been duplicated by the successors. So it is little bit exaggeration to say that the genes of diverse biological groups are like atoms having the different combinations to form diverse compounds. In 1902, Garrod advocated a third definition after having the epoch making discovery single gene-single disease theory popularly known as ‘OGOD’ theory but it appears to be misleading due to its holistic appeal. One gene either mutated can be associated with many diseases. Rather the “Garrodian gene is a disease is disease averter, a healthy giver”.” Central Dogma’ given by James Watson & Francis Crick expedited the gene as recipe. Gene is the recipe and mRNA is the cook. The mRNA is transcripted from the DNA and the translation of the mRNA is done by the small sub unit of ribosome to form the protein( garland of amino acids) that form a number of characters like enzymes, hormones, structural protein, functional protein transport proteins etc. On the other hand, DNA replicates itself to act as faithful master (auto-catalytic) to transfer the information to the successor cells. So, according to Watson & Crick, gene is a recipe. The definition of the gene got a momentum when two scientists Jacob & Monad (1950) advocated that gene is as a switch and a unit of development. They explained the operational attributes of gene on the basis most highlighted ‘Operon’ model through the promoter, operator, regulator and repressor units. The gene is switched off by the repressor protein that enables to think that genes are turned off and on by the attachment of proteins to special sequences very close to the functional unit of gene-Operon.The same gene can be used in different species or even in the different Parts of the body to produce diverse effects The sonic hedgehog’ gene in one context can form neuron, the structural and functional unit nervous system while in other context, it can induce the neighboring cells to go on the production of limbs. So, we cannot say a “gene for” something but a smell of pluralism.

Recently, it has been quite cleared that the life starts from a single cell with a single nucleus enriched with a set of chromosomes bearing genes (DNA). Some parts of the DNA is functional while rest are non-functional like advertisement in a TV programs. But all the genes are not switched on or off at a time but this regulations are done in different combinations in different tissues. To build a human body or to construct a Sequoia tree, throwing a series of switches in the right orders in presence of the right referee (transcription factor) to promote the production of the multiple tasks .This is echoed by the pluralism in singularity. The genes have multiple functions-qualitative or quantitative. In one hand, the evolution is little more than the survival of genes (Fisher) while others hold good of the as the unit of selection. The classical debate very often emerges as far nature and nurture concept. Here, the extracting information from the environment, genes are the devices to produce multiple colors in every minute, every second –whether to linger the beauty of a beauty queen or the petals of red roses; whether the magic of real heroes or the pathos of a hijacker. If there is a depression in your mind, ruled out by a piece of caffeine. “Genes are like story, and DNA is the language that the story is written in” (Sam Kean). Enjoy the stories of gene and adorn the ballad of life. The sweet songs of gene can make our life the sweetest as the blessings of GOD(Genomic organizing Device) but it may becomes sour when we becomes victims of the worst one. The nightmare of the World pandemic, COVID19 is the worst example how the genes and variants become a thread between life and death. The father of consciousness, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has stated,” I know not how thou sings, my master! I ever listen in silent amazement”.

Associate Professor at Nistarini College Purulia, West Bengal