Last fall, a bizarre but interesting paper was published in Nature Cell Research:

Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA

(subsequent correction after they duplicated images in their figures LOL!!!! Nature/Science, you so crazy!)

What they suggest, is that when humans eat Oryza sativa (Asian rice), a microRNA highly expressed in that rice is secreted into vesicles during digestion, which are absorbed into the human bloodstream, and taken up by liver cells, where the rice microRNA can then have a physiological effect on human LDL levels.

Well thats neato… If it turns out to be true. Preliminary potentially neat stuff… But physiologically, it seems unlikely. Its one thing to protect a virus or a bacteria through digestion, its another to protect RNA or even a vesicle of RNA though the digestive process, then get it into cells in another part of the body at levels that result in a phenotype. And its almost certainly not a co-evolution thing– more like a ‘random side-effect’ thing, especially since it looks like the rice microRNA *inhibits* uptake of LDL, which seems like a bad thing.

So, naturally, a random weirdo ‘journalist’ decided that this potentially neat, probably an artifact preliminary data was a sign of the end times and wrote about it for The Atlantic. Im not talking about fire and brimstone and archangels with flaming swords. Im talking about something much more serious here, people.

Genetically modified organisms are enabling homologous recombinaltion tinikering between HUMANS and PLANTS!

Ari LeVaux is convinced that us Evil Humans tinikering with plant DNA will lead to “cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes” and “new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for”. Now, LeVaux doesnt have any, you know, *scientific evidence to suggest that might be, in any way, true*. Hes just pulling shit out of his ass, and considering he is a proponent of raw milk, thats probably a LOT of shit, thanks to E. coli. Thankfully, in a guest post at BioFortified, Emily Willingham put a big ol diaper on LeVauxs leaking orifice:

Why did The Atlantic publish this piece trying to link miRNAs and GMOs?

If you want a laugh, Ari is responding to Emily in the comment section of his article, and surprise of all surprises, he is a total douche bag, just as proud of his scientific ignorance as any Creationist Ive seen. Dude even says on Twitter regarding a post that ‘thinks he has a point': “Poor dear, she’s likely about to get lynched by nerds.” LOL, NERDS! With their SCIENCE and hoity toity BOOK LEARNIN! NEEEEEERD!!

While it *is* fun laughing at twats like Ari, Im actually going to finish this post by taking the research and putting a different spin on it. If this paper is valid, then yes, GMO organisms could be used to introduce microRNA into humans, and THAT IS AWESOME!!! Brand new therapeutic avenue to explore! What kinds of microRNAs could we introduce into rice, or corn, or lettuce, to generate novel therapeutics for “cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes”? This would be great for liver cancer, kidney cancer, maybe some brain diseases, depending on how the microRNA vesicles do at crossing the Blood Brain Barrier. Imagine if treating cancer turned into ‘Eat this bowl of rice’ instead of ‘This chemotherapy is going to make you look and feel like shit’. And what about novel therapies for viral diseases? We *really* need some help with Hepatitis C. Could a microRNA introduced into GMO plants help us cure this disease?

So Ari can keep sucking down his raw milk while simultaneously worrying about actually safe foods making him sick, manipulating science to scare people into supporting his political agenda, but us scientists are going to keep using the *actual* implications of that science to save the planet.

Comments

  1. #1 Spence
    January 11, 2012

    Oh noes! Evil scientists are going to create franken-rice, which will homologous recombinaltion tiniker their way into humans and evolve into mecha-streisands who will destroy the earth!

    Won’t somebody think of the children??!1?!

    :)

  2. #2 theshortearedowl
    January 11, 2012

    Prediction: miRNAs are the new quantum in the alt-med world by the end of 2012.

  3. #3 Tony Mach
    January 11, 2012

    And its almost certainly not a co-evolution thing– more like a ‘random side-effect’ thing, especially since it looks like the rice microRNA *inhibits* uptake of LDL, which seems like a bad thing.

    Animals harmed by plants? Now what would the evolutionary advantage for the plant be in that? Yeah, can’t think of a reason why selection would favor traits in plants that are adverse to animals that feast on them.

  4. #4 tenine
    January 11, 2012

    I ran across a reference to this online and casually dismissed it as BS. I’m glad my opinion was right.

  5. #5 John Marley
    January 11, 2012

    Sure. It’s all fun, games and cool research. Until the Triffids take over. :p

  6. #6 Spin
    January 11, 2012

    I’d be pretty happy with a genetic treatment for lactose intolerance.

  7. #7 TCC
    January 12, 2012

    @Tony#3
    I agree with Abbie on this one.
    Although there are plenty of reasons for a plant to defend itself against animals that eat them, this particular mechanism seems like a long shot. Inhibit uptake of LDL so that…um…the animal will die of a heart attack forty years later? I’m not ruling it out mind you, I’m sure one could imagine a mechanism…I’m just saying I’m with Abbie on this…it’s likely to be a side effect. And, it’s up to the authors to prove physiological/biological relevance.

  8. #8 mo
    January 12, 2012

    Ha! Before I came across stuff like this, I thought RNA mediated cell-cell communication in vertebrates would be most likely proposed as a bad joke or by someone on lots of LSD. Well, you can never stop learning.

    I still think the thesis of this paper is very weird, but some months ago I found this review, which at least discusses some possible mechanisms:
    http://www.nature.com/nrclinonc/journal/v8/n8/full/nrclinonc.2011.76.html

  9. #9 Robert Bruce Thompson
    January 12, 2012

    Talk about synchronicity …

    I’m writing a biology lab manual. Yesterday, I was finishing up a lab session on cell division, writing about meiosis. I came very close to adding a graphic titled “Homologous Recombinaltion Tiniker”. Then, when I googled the phrase, your post popped up.

    http://www.ttgnet.com/journal/?p=393

  10. #10 Prometheus (the other one)
    January 12, 2012

    I’d like to know how the rice plant keeps its miRNA from rapidly degrading in the digestive tract of the animal that eats it. You see, I’ve been working with miRNA for years and one of my biggest problems is how to keep the darn stuff from breaking down. And that’s without actually touching the miRNA – I can only imagine what happens when it is exposed to the RNAses in saliva, gastric enzymes and – FSM forfend! – pancreatic exocrine secretions.

    Whether or not rice miRNA can influence mammalian cells in vitro, I don’t think it has much of a chance in vivo (especially in gastro).

    Prometheus (the other one)

  11. #11 mo (one of Abbies's elk)
    January 12, 2012

    read the review, miRNA may at least act like a hormone in one organism.

  12. #12 Emily
    January 12, 2012

    So Alec Holland got a grant to do work in China?
    (Seriously, a day and a half and no Swamp Thing references? I thought you were supposed to be a bunch of d00dz.)

  13. #13 Ari LeVaux
    January 14, 2012

    The same crimes that I’m accused of are being used against me.

    I’d like to see your evidence, for example, that I drink raw milk. You linked to an article I wrote defending people’s right to eat whatever they want.

    It turns out I don’t drink milk. I don’t do well on it, and I have no interest in drinking the mammary secretions of other animals (though I did take a sip from a doe I recently shot).

    In any case, you made a point, and it was baseless. Does this mean we can expect a correction here too?

    Does evidence-based journalism get thrown out the window if you perceive the writer as a “douchebag” and “twat?”

    How is it that you and others can conclude that I used the China study to claim that GM miRNAs are poisonous, when I clearly stated:

    “[the Chinese] study had nothing to do with genetically modified (GM) food, but it could have implications on that front. The work shows a pathway by which new food products, such as GM foods, could influence human health in previously unanticipated ways.”

  14. #14 ERV
    January 14, 2012

    Douchebag Ari LaVey–

    ‘Defending people’s right to eat whatever they want.’
    Rails against GMO crops for purely political reasons.

    Uses ‘science’ to support political position.
    Calls scientists ‘nerds’.

    Tries to tie microRNA to “cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes” and “new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for”.
    Wonders why everyone “can conclude that I used the China study to claim that GM miRNAs are poisonous”.

    Creationists, HIV Deniers, anti-vaxers, GWD, anti-food technology luddites– Twisting science to defend indefensible political positions since it was politically advantageous.

    ERV– Making fun of douchebags who have absolutely no interest in science, but will happily pervert science for their bullshit political purposes since 2006.

    Apologize for the nerd comment and show a sincere interest in learning (as opposed to being an arrogant twat trying to tell biologists about their own fucking field) and you will be taken seriously here.

    Keep being a douche? My readers will either eat you alive (LOL UR ORGANIX!) or ignore you.

    Welcome to ERV, and have fun!

  15. #15 EvilYeti
    January 14, 2012

    I really, really hate this debate as it highlights a glaring weakness in my otherwise encyclopedic knowledge of pop-sci topics.

    Namely, I don’t understand the mechanics of GM well enough to comment regarding potential health risks. I do understand, though, that the typical hippie “FrankenFood” argument is a fear-based emotional response.

    Doesn’t mean GMO food is safe, though. The tobacco industry blocked regulation of their products for decades with (false) assurances of their products safety. Hence my skepticism.

  16. #16 Michael Kingsford Gray
    January 15, 2012

    As a related aside related to acquisition by human gut-flora of genes via digestion, see:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18745-japanese-gut-bacteria-gain-special-powers-from-sushi.html

    “Sushi arms the guts of the Japanese with new digestive powers. A seaweed-eating enzyme seems to have jumped from marine bacteria to the harmless bugs that call the intestines of sushi-eaters home.
    This is the first evidence that food bacteria can transfer genes to our own gut bacteria, and could help us extract more energy from food, says Mirjam Czjzek at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Roscoff, France.”

  17. #17 Matthew Koehler
    January 15, 2012

    Wow! Some of you budding scientists out there sure have to resort to lots of crass name-calling and childish antics as you tell us how smart you are. Anyone else wonder why?

  18. #18 Michele
    January 15, 2012

    Yeah, this sounds like the transcript from a dysfunctional PTA meeting.

  19. #19 Justicar
    January 15, 2012

    My readers will either eat you alive (LOL UR ORGANIX!) or ignore you.

    We’ve already established that I have dibs on the hands. Everyone totally knows that when my tummy is making the rumblies only hands can satisfy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZUPCB9533Y

  20. #20 Justicar
    January 15, 2012

    Ari writes

    It turns out I don’t drink milk. I don’t do well on it, and I have no interest in drinking the mammary secretions of other animals (though I did take a sip from a doe I recently shot).

    I’ll translate: turns out I don’t drink milk (except for when I am drinking milk).

  21. #21 theshortearedowl
    January 16, 2012

    Some of you budding scientists out there sure have to resort to lots of crass name-calling and childish antics as you tell us how smart you are.

    We don’t have to. We do it of our own free will.

  22. #22 Matthew Koehler
    January 16, 2012

    “I’ll translate: turns out I don’t drink milk (except for when I am drinking milk).”

    and

    “We don’t have to. We do it of our own free will.”

    You kids really have some growin’ up to do….and apparently have lots of time on your hands to nit-pick and call people names. Jeez….

  23. #23 Ari LeVaux
    January 16, 2012

    “Yeah, this sounds like the transcript from a dysfunctional PTA meeting.”
    This is a very scary thought. Some of these writers are so full of reckless anger I’m just glad their screens stop the spittle before it hits me. I truly hope the authors of such unabomber-esque drivel don’t have kids.

  24. #24 Spence
    January 16, 2012

    Re: #19

    justicaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrlllllll

    Re #22

    You can always tell when someone has no point of merit or worth, because they whine about the language.

    Look. It’s pretty simple. Ari happily promotes raw milk but throws a hissy fit about GM food. Here’s the thing: raw milk is incredibly dangerous and has real health risks. But GM food has massive potential health *benefits*. The risk associated with GM food is far less than, say, the risks associated with organics due to the extensive testing regime imposed on the development of the former.

    While I’m all for stupid people wiping themselves off the face of the planet by making their own informed decision to eat fugu carved by an unlicensed one-eyed psychopath with clubs for hands if they really want to, what pisses me off no end is when idiots like Ari Ledouchebag writes unadulterated drivel about the risk of something which has clear huge benefits, and tries to dress it up as if he knows what he is talking about.

    Touting misinformation like this is the behaviour of a douchebag. When someone acts like a douchebag, they get called on it. And if that offends your sensibilities, tough shit, because although you have the right to be offended, you do not have the right *not* to be offended.

    A man less wise than me once said, “people often say things on the internet that they would not say to your face. You are strongly urged to get over it.” If you squeal like a stuck pig because all the bad werdz came over and ganged up on you, then perhaps you are not capable of figuring out that touting misinformation about food carries infinitely more risk to many people than the occasional expletive.

  25. #25 Justicar
    January 16, 2012

    Look. It’s pretty simple. Ari happily promotes raw milk but throws a hissy fit about GM food. Here’s the thing: raw milk is incredibly dangerous and has real health risks. But GM food has massive potential health *benefits*.

    I’ll do you one better; all milk is potentially incredibly dangerous. Notice that milk-carrying trucks carry a hazmat placard. This is so for two reasons. One of which is pathogenic, and the other is that the containers holding the milk are very much weaker than containers carrying, say, fuel. One can’t divvy the container up into pieces to control movement of the fluid because that creates difficulty in cleaning the interior after each delivery. One can’t use bleach, say, because a food stuff goes back in.

    With respect to the pathogenic pieces, ff such a truck were to have some collision and its contents spilled out, the area would be cordoned off and cleaned by a hazmat team because a milk spill is considered a biological hazard, even if it’s been pasteurized.

    lol @ justicaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrlllllllllll

  26. #26 Justicar
    January 16, 2012

    Matthew Koehler writes

    You kids really have some growin’ up to do….and apparently have lots of time on your hands to nit-pick and call people names. Jeez….

    I fail to see that I’m nitpicking. He claims he doesn’t drink milk and then tells us about his drinking milk. I’m not a murderer . . . if you exclude all of the people I’ve murdered is the same logical structure as I don’t drink if you discount all instances in which I drink milk.

    Noting a logical failure in his proposition isn’t nitpicking. It’s like a smoker saying he’s not a smoker and having people point out that he just had a cigarette. Well, sure, I just had a cigarette, but I’m not a smoker because most of the time I’m not smoking – I only smoke, say, 6 minutes out of an hour. So, that’s 54 minutes per hour I’m not smoking; thus, I’m not a smoker.

    It’s nonsensical.

  27. #27 ERV
    January 17, 2012

    Hey guys– Ari had a comment get caught in the spam trap. Note its lack of apology for the ‘nerd’ comment, and his characterization of people actually educated on this topic as ‘unibombers’.

    Idiot Right, Idiot Left, theyre all just Idiots. And damn proud of it.

  28. #28 Mu
    January 17, 2012

    I like how he is upset that others weren’t willing to grant him a mulligan on his column either. http://www.flashinthepan.net/?p=710
    Even the mighty Discover Magazine thinks he’s not fully endowed with mental aptitude.

  29. #29 fnxtr
    January 20, 2012

    I think I’d like H. oryzus, or something, better.

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