NPR

Biologists Trace Genetic Roots Of Evolution, One Cell At A Time

E.coli bacteria, each cell trapped in a tiny tube, are giving researchers the chance to study the pace and effects of single genetic mutations. Most mutations, the scientists find, aren't harmful.
Colored transmission electron micrograph of a section through an Escherichia coli bacterium. This rod-shaped bacterium moves via its hair-like flagellae (yellow). Source: Kwangshin Kim

Genetic mutations are the driving force of evolution, and now scientists have managed to study the effect of mutations in exquisite detail by watching what happens as they pop up in single cells.

Only about one percent of mutations were bad enough to kill off the cell, according to a published Thursday in . Most of the time, these small changes in its DNA appeared to have no

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