Amazing Science: Retroviruses
Posted on November 28, 2007 Comments (3)
One of the great things about writing this blog is I find myself more focused on reading about interesting science. Retroviruses are very interesting and frankly amazing. Darwin’s Surprise by Michael Specter, The New Yorker:
When the sequence of the human genome was fully mapped, in 2003, researchers also discovered something they had not anticipated: our bodies are littered with the shards of such retroviruses, fragments of the chemical code from which all genetic material is made. It takes less than two per cent of our genome to create all the proteins necessary for us to live. Eight per cent, however, is composed of broken and disabled retroviruses, which, millions of years ago, managed to embed themselves in the DNA of our ancestors. They are called endogenous retroviruses, because once they infect the DNA of a species they become part of that species. One by one, though, after molecular battles that raged for thousands of generations, they have been defeated by evolution. Like dinosaur bones, these viral fragments are fossils. Instead of having been buried in sand, they reside within each of us, carrying a record that goes back millions of years. Because they no longer seem to serve a purpose or cause harm, these remnants have often been referred to as “junk DNA.” Many still manage to generate proteins, but scientists have never found one that functions properly in humans or that could make us sick.
How amazing is that? I mean really think about it: it is incredible. The whole article is great. Related: Old Viruses Resurrected Through DNA – DNA for once species found in another species’ Genes – New Understanding of Human DNA – Retrovirus overview (Tulane) – Cancer-Killing Virus