Sunday, 6 March 2011

Human endogenous retroviruses

Just stumbled across something I think is totally fascinating, and potentially an awesome sci-fi subject:

So firstly:
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are sequences in the genome thought to be derived from ancient viral infections of germ cells in humans, mammals and other vertebrates
That in itself blows my mind - our very DNA can hold the leftover fragments of diseases and infections, probably long-dead, from our ancestors. Of course, we know full well of the dangers of HIV being carried from mother (and father? I'm not sure) to child. But the implications of HERVs seem to go further; my imagination is reminded of the armies of personal computers around the world unknowingly recruited by botnets, waiting for the command to spack out and go crazy.
There are many thousands of endogenous retroviruses within human DNA, with HERVs comprising nearly 8% of the human genome and composed with 98,000 elements and fragments. ... There is one family of viruses that have been active since the divergence of human and chimpanzees. This family, termed HERV-K (HML2), makes up less than 1% of HERV elements but is one of the most studied.
Imagine a virus left a key in our genome waiting to be activated by someone or something else?
It's way more sci-fi than science, but still...

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