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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020

Maynooth scientist makes major breakthrough on life's origins

“Nature’s big bang” uncovered by a Maynooth scientist searching for the earliest ancestor of the human race.

A MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH into the origins of life on our planet has been made by a scientist in Maynooth, the Irish Times reports.
The discovery nicknamed “Nature’s big bang” identifies the moment that single-celled organisms combined to become the first multi-celled forms of life – the basis for all plant, animal and human life on our planet.

Dr James McInerney, senior biologist at National University of Ireland (NUI) in Maynooth, said:

This was a remarkable event, which appears to have happened only once.

These two primitive single-celled life forms came together in an event that essentially allowed nature to grow big.


There are three domains of life on Earth; eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea.

Eukaryotes are complex multi-cellular organisms like humans, animals, plants and insects.

The research team mapped the yeast genome and found that evidence of both a bacterial cell and an archaean cell inside a eukaryote which formed with a nucleus – meaning that yeast was the offspring of a bacterium and an archaean.

McInerney said:

It is in the nucleus that we find the DNA of all species, and for years it had been a puzzle as to how the first nucleus was created. Now we know.

The discovery comes after 10 years of research at NUI Maynooth and after the sequencing of the yeast genome in 1997.

McInerney, of the Bioinformatics and Molecular Evolution Unit of the Department of Biology at Maynooth, collaborated with Dr James Cotton at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.

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