Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Role of Retroviruses in Human Evolution

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the gotta-love-that-twisty-tree-of-life dept.

Biotech 133

mhackarbie writes "The current edition of the New Yorker magazine has up a story about endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of humans and other species. Although researchers have known about such non-functional retroviral 'fossils' in the human genome for some time, the large amount of recent genomic data underscores just how pervasive they are, in a compelling tale that involves humans, their primate cousins, and a variety of viral invaders. Some researchers are even bringing back non-functional viral remnants from the dead by fixing their broken genes."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

First (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21626967)

First Infection

Re:First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627243)

Yes, you are..

Bringing back the dead? (2, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21626971)

Some researchers are even bringing back non-functional viral remnants from the dead by fixing their broken genes."


So what you're saying is we will now have zombie viruses?

Re:Bringing back the dead? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21626987)

Zombie viruses, huh? Now might be a good time to take stock in really tiny shotguns.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627039)

This is no laughing matter. Solanum [wikipedia.org] is serious sh*t!

Re:Bringing back the dead? (0)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627049)

Nonono, you gombat green ooze with grey ooze! Bring on the nanobots!

Re:Bringing back the dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627327)

you sir are gombat retarded.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627483)

Touché. Missing a spelling error in a one line post is just desserts for making a one-line post in the first place, I suppose. Especially when it's an intentionally stupid one-liner. -1 Idiot for me.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627503)

Before anyone else points it out, yes I realize I just misspelled "just deserts." I blame lack of food.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (2, Funny)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627695)

Is this a bad time to point out that you may just have missed a comma? :P

-:sigma.SB

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628045)

I == mastar of gramer!! Or typoing, at least . . . :-( Proofreading is for notmeh! >.

Amen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21628247)

Profreding is for squares!!

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627093)

But only after we find a way to shrink Simon Pegg small enough to use them!

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

Natomui (821656) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627329)

Made by nanotube-excreting bacteria [slashdot.org] ! We solved our problem by creating a new one! ...yeah! go us.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627159)

Well, I for one welcome our new undead zombie retrovirus overlords!

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627163)

Didn't Jurassic Park teach us anything. Instead of T-Rex eating our lawyers we'll have our lawyers keeling over dead from fossil viri.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (4, Funny)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627297)

Either way, lawyers die, which shows there is no downside meddling in genetic engineering.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627803)

Well, all the lawyers can rest easy that either way, you too will die.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21629083)

And the downside to either scenario is?

A lawyer friend of mine remarked once about how 98% of lawyers screw it up for the rest of them. Personally, I'm wondering if the research into these fossil viri encoded into our genome will shed light on how we evolved lawyers.

Especially if they come up with a cure...

Re:Bringing back the dead? (4, Interesting)

skeftomai (1057866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627279)

Are viruses even alive in the first place?

Re:Bringing back the dead? (4, Informative)

seededfury (699094) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627425)

"Viruses and aberrant prion proteins are often considered replicators rather than forms of life, a distinction warranted because they cannot reproduce without very specialized substrates such as host cells or proteins, respectively.."

Life [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

skeftomai (1057866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627463)

(I just want to make it clear that I agree with evolution and natural selection. I only ask to further my knowledge and understanding of the subject). Why does my biology book use HIV as an example of natural selection if HIV is not alive?

Re:Bringing back the dead? (3, Interesting)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627541)

Natural selection is a general principle that applies to anything that reproduces -- things that reproduce well will continue to exist and spread, and when variation occurs, those variants that are best equipped to survive and reproduce successfully in a given environment will come to dominate the population. This has even been applied to ideas in the greatly overhyped meme theory [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Bringing back the dead? (1)

Abeydoun (1096003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628865)

Well, if we take Comment 21626987 [slashdot.org] into account, I guess we can just classify these viruses as undead.

Re:Bringing back the dead? (2, Funny)

eniac42 (1144799) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627367)

Why, its a plan that is almost entirely without a drawback, as far as I can see..

Oh no! (1, Troll)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 6 years ago | (#21626985)

Fixing the genes of 'broken' viruses that clearly have the ability to infect us seems pretty damned stupid. Spanish flu, Avian flu, 30,000 BC flu... Here comes the next pandemic. While we're at fixing 'broken' viruses in our DNA, let's fix other viruses while we're at it... Why don't we just fix that part where they're drug resistant? Oh... we can't do that? Then what the hell makes them think we have enough knowledge to 'fix' the ones in our DNA?

Re:Oh no! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627015)

You, sir, are stupid. I suggest you look up the definition of "broken." It doesn't always mean "not working."

Hope this effing helps.

Re:Oh no! (4, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627021)

Obviously if enough individuals survived with cells reproducing its DNA containing the retrovirus for it to become a species-wide "fossil" it was either not very harmful or possibly even beneficial to our ancestors. You might be able to make the case that perhaps we have since lost the ability to combat these retroviruses, but then we must consider the possibility that in some individuals these portions of dormant virus data have been reactivate naturally. If this has occurred and we are indeed now ill equipt to fight it, then it would have been observed as some disease and possibly classified as a genetic disorder. Who knows, by reactivating these, we have discover the cause, and subsequently the cure (as obviously we naturally beat it once) to some terrible genetic malady!

Re:Oh no! (2, Insightful)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627103)

Well, the cure might or might not be so easy . . . if we already knew it was a genetic malady, there's a good chance we knew the gene to some degree, and finding out that it's an ancestral retrovirus gives fairly minimal new information on how to address it. If we were once tolerant of it and now are not, that implies some cost to the tolerance-granting genes, since we lost them . . . in that case, they may not be around to find, and even if they are, where do you look? If we acquired some new trait that made us vulnerable to this now-dormant virus, that's going to be even less helpful, and again, how do you tell? All of this boils down to, we've got a touch more information about origin, but it doesn't point us anywhere.

The real benefits of this research lie elsewhere - in the ability to recover and play with old viruses, see what they do, and possibly track their evolution through the genetic record, which may help us combat the change and spread of nasty current retroviruses like HIV.

Reactivated retroviruses (2, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627119)

If I have beneficial bacteria in my gut that keeps dangerous ones from living there, perhaps we can revitalize some harmless retrovirus to compete for the niche that the AIDS retrovirus lives in.

Re:Reactivated retroviruses (3, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627621)

While that might seem a valid comparison it unfortunately wrong on to points

1. The role of your bacteria in your gut is not to prevent bad bacteria from living there but to help with digestion. However since bacteria on your skin do have this competition role I'll accept it as a valid point.

2. Viruses come, ursurp the mechanisms of the cell to make it produce copies, and then kill the cell to move on (in most cases). Hence using "good" viruses isn't going to make the bad viruses go away. What has happened with the "good" viruses is that they were once bad, but as part of their attack on a cell they merged their rna into our dna which become deactivated and over time changed into a new and positive role.

Re:Reactivated retroviruses (5, Informative)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627629)

Unfortunately viruses don't compete directly in that potentially harmless way . . . HIV's niche is in your T cells (and others), reproducing itself until the cell explodes. Viruses [wikipedia.org] don't really prey on each other (they are simple RNA injection machines that parasitically use the replication mechanisms of cells they infect for reproduction. The only way for another virus to block it is to just kill all the potential target cells first (not so helpful) or to infect them with counter-RNA that neutralizes that of HIV. The problem with the second is that unless it's also doing dangerous things to you, that helper virus isn't going to be able to spread in order to combat the HIV. It's just not the same as gut bacteria - they take up residence on the limited available real estate, do some digesting of the food you helpfully provide, and defend their turf from unwanted invaders while managing their own reproduction and such, whereas viruses are hijackers by nature.

Re:Oh no! (1)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627221)

As the article mentions, some retroviruses can become activated in cancer cells. This is one way people have proposed for identifying cancer cells for destruction. But the fossilized retroviruses in this article have become mutated, most likely in an enzyme that is required for them to be functional. The integrase protein actually splices the viral DNA into the host DNA. If that DNA has a part that is nonfunctional, then the DNA may be nonfunctional. That is, it will not be made into messenger RNAs and thus not be made into proteins.

Re:Oh no! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21629023)

there's a little problem with that that I never understood. So a virus starts modifying your cells and it doesn't kill you but it changes YOU. Now how does that get to the offspring? Since reproductive cells are formed completely differently, the chances that the virus could infect them in time and the exact same way as other cells is kinda ridiculous. Especially compared to how likely it is that the organisms with their *sarcastic* vaaaaast knowledge of disease spread prevention among individuals in a community just simply passed the virus to everyone using the normal methods and it traveled down generations so it looked like people got the extra genetic material purely by genetic mutation and inheritence

Re:Oh no! (2, Funny)

krel (588588) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627063)

You're right, we should never research diseases. We might infect ourselves with them.

Re:Oh no! (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627363)

You're right, we should never research diseases. We might infect ourselves with them.

But at least we know something about existing diseases. These guys might dig up and revive something as bad as or worse than AIDS.
   

What are you talking about? (2, Insightful)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627065)

HIV is the only virus in which drug resistance is a problem - because most aren't affected by any drugs in the first place. Maybe you're thinking of bacteria [microbeworld.org] ?

In any case, I'd prefer it if they'd experiment with mouse retroviruses instead...

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627277)

There are several other viruses that are affected to some degree by drugs, e.g. Tamiflu and many others. The main problem is that one generally wants to hit early in the lifecycle, as the point is to stop the exponential growth. The other problem is that treatment by for example interferone can certainly help against several viral infections (but, again, you would generally need to administer it before you see any symptoms), but it would frequently also cause worse effects than the original disease.

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627557)

True, but there hasn't been any equivalent to penicillin, and something that broad-spectrum is probably impossible with viruses. Few could be considered life-saving, or even useful. Valacyclovir and similar drugs for herpes viruses, I suppose. But vaccines and the body's own immune system have been far more effective against viruses than any drug. As you said, the nature of most viral infections make them much more difficult to treat, since they've probably been reproducing exponentially for days before symptoms even appear. (I don't know if anyone in town even carries Tamiflu or Relenza anymore - we sent ours back after it expired.)

Re:What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627727)

"HIV is the only virus in which drug resistance is a problem - because most aren't affected by any drugs in the first place."

Isn't that what drug resistance means? ;)

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628523)

No, it's not. It can have that connotation in other instances (radiation resistance) but in the case of drug
resistance there is the implication of having been susceptible at one point. MRSA is multiply resistant because
it's *no longer affected* by over/mis-used-antibiotics X, Y and Z.

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627789)

In any case, I'd prefer it if they'd experiment with mouse retroviruses instead...

I cannot use a keyboard, YIC.

The sky is falling!!!!111!!one!!111! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627069)

Your parents protected you with a full-body bubblewrap until age 35, didn't they.

Re:Oh no! (2, Informative)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627257)

Viruses are relatively speaking, very simple. They have very few genes, and they have few functions. By comparison, simple bacteria often have several hundred times as many genes. If we want to understand how organisms work period, it's necessary to start with the basics. I study retrovirus proteins, and our collaborators routinely use "live" HIV viruses to infect cells. The procedures are quite standard. In those experiments, often the HIV strain that is used can only infect cells one time and cannot replicate. The researchers in the article do the same thing.

Re:Oh no! (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627271)

Researchers work every day with viruses that are known to be incredibly dangerous, not just those that might be such as these putative retroviral fossils. So if you're worrying about something escaping the lab and causing a global pandemic, there are more serious threats. Really, this is pretty safe compared to ongoing work on, say, Ebola.

Re:Oh no! (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627481)

too late. we've already revived ancient viruses from our genome and they are found to be extremely bad at infecting eucaryotes like us. it could be for any number of reasons, the RNA-i based defenses, millions of years of evolution, the fact these viruses didn't manage to replicate themselves without excising themselves from our genome- take your pick. The fact is that viruses that exist *now* are the ones you should be worrying about.

Re:Oh no! (3, Interesting)

drunken_boxer777 (985820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627991)

I'm giving up mod privileges on this to comment.

If we "fix that part where they're drug resistant", it would make no difference, unless we could eliminate those viruses in the first place. It's like trying to populate the world with only mice that were more likely to get caught in traps. It would only be possible if we could eliminate all the mice in the world, and then introduce these 'dumb' mice into the wild. What's the point of repopulating the world with dumb mice if we didn't want mice in the first place?

Second of all, if you read the article, you would know how the researchers 'fixed' the 'broken' viruses:

The team took ten versions of that virus (we carry more than thirty) and compared the thousands of nucleotides in the genetic sequence of each version. They were almost identical, but where they differed the researchers selected the nucleotides that appeared most frequently. That permitted them to piece together a working replica of the extinct retrovirus. "If you have a person with a lethal defect in the heart,'' Bieniasz explained, "and another with a lethal defect in the kidney, you could make one healthy person by transplanting the respective organs. That is what we did.

Lastly, and not that it will necessarily assuage your fears, but a species that carries an endogenous retrovirus in its genome is far less likely to be infected by that virus. Some developmental biologists employ a well-characterized and naturally occurring chicken retrovirus, engineering it to misexpress a normal chicken gene of their choice. This way, they can see what happens if they express that gene everywhere within a developing organ, as opposed to the normal expression of the gene only within a small population of cells within that organ. (As an example, they are studying gene X, which plays a role in bone development, and is only expressed in cells that will become bone cells. They make a chicken retrovirus that also expresses gene X, and infect the wing of a developing chicken. Now all the cells in the wing express gene X, and not just those that were going to become bone cells.) In order to do this, these researchers must use eggs from chickens that do not carry endogenous copies of this virus in their genome. Eggs from chickens that carry endogenous copies of this naturally-occurring retrovirus in their genome are far less susceptible to infection by the engineered virus, and therefore are not experimentally useful. Such endogenous retrovirus-free chickens were specially bred.

Sure, there are always potential risks from any type of science. But it is important to know how risky something is, and weigh that versus the potential benefits.

The thing about retroviruses... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627073)

See the thing about retroviruses is that once they work their way into the genome, they begin to do wack things. They predispose the person to wear bell bottom geans, listen to funk music, wear tube socks, and any number of out of fashion things. They begin to force the person to speak in archaic manners, eg "Thou hast been up intowards my grill!" So I think it's safe to say that we need to eliminate retroviruses as a mechanism of mutation. There comes a time to let certain things go.

Re:The thing about retroviruses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627115)

you mean the ID folks are gonna use this to stop evolution?

Re:The thing about retroviruses... (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627195)

Hey! I resembleth thine remark, thou clod insensitiveth!

Re:The thing about retroviruses... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627305)

GROG SMASH

Re:The thing about retroviruses... (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627373)

Groovy!

Oblig. (1)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627123)

I, for one, welcome our newly re-animated zombie retroviral overlords!

Hmm (5, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627167)

How do we know the the retrovirus genome didn't originate with the hosts themselves? Did these viruses evolve truly independently, or might they have started out as fragments of genetic code from some larger organism which somehow escaped and became self-sufficient?

In other words, when we look at the human genome and say, "This is riddled with retroviruses!" is it not possible that the retroviruses were actually there all along, and only later became able to leave the parent cell and operate independently?

Are retroviruses actually just chunks of "rebel DNA" from our own genome, or possibly from some other species?

Re:Hmm (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627223)

hat you're describing is probably possible, but for any given stretch of DNA encoding the right polymerases, it's a lot more likely that it's a retrovirus that lost the ability to leave the cell than that it's a transposon that gained that ability.

Aaargh, learn to use the preview button (3, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627247)

What you're describing is probably possible, but for any given stretch of DNA encoding the right polymerases, it's a lot more likely that it's a retrovirus that lost the ability to leave the cell than that it's a transposon that gained that ability and then lost it again.

Is what I meant to say.

kicked out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627251)

The "Rebel DNA" would like to pretend it left for personal reasons or perhaps to spend more time with its family.

Are we too polite to acknowlege that it was actually forced to resign?

Re:Hmm (4, Interesting)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627265)

That is a damn good question.

A 'rebel DNA leaving home' must have happened at least once, in some species, otherwise how could viruses exist? They seem way too complex to have happened by chance, and they can't evolve until they are complex enough to infect.

Re:Hmm (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627353)

Do they really infect? Or do they do something else?

My impression is that bacteria are in the habit of absorbing random fragments of DNA from their environment. I can see where some accident would cause such a fragment to carry the instruction 'replicate me' and little else, thus making things interesting. So not so much leaving home as taking it over destructively. Throw in billions of years and trillions of organisms and it starts to get a little ridiculous trying to make any guesses at all.

Re:Hmm (2, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21629147)

I'd imagine other forms of life to be more complicated than viruses, and the general consensus seems to be that they developed by random chance - they can't evolve until they're complicated enough to reproduce.

Re:Hmm (5, Interesting)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627293)

To understand this, you can do sequence comparisons between retroviral genes and our own genes. For example, retroviruses have an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This enzyme is a type of polymerase. We have many polymerases in our body, and if RT developed from one of them, then there would be very substantial sequence similarity. This is one way to figure out what proteins do if you do not know their function. You compare their amino acid sequence to other known proteins and see if they are similar. This is very common, and it is how researchers establish relationships between retroviruses to understand how they evolve. For example, HIV is a member of the subgroup of retroviruses called lentiviruses, and these viruses have many things in common. HIV has a cousin called SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) that is very similar. A really good reference is Coffin, RETROVIRUSES, from Cold Spring Harbor Press.

Re:Hmm (1)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628221)

Before someone makes a sex with monkeys joke, I would like to point out that HIV is not entirely a sexually transmitted disease. It is actually spread by blood contact due to damaged tissues during sex. SIV most likely made the leap over to humans due to hunting and consumption of simians.

Re:Hmm (1)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628545)

Just to add a little bit to that: There are also theories that suggest that HIV has been in the human population for much longer than one might think (early 1980s). See Gilbert et al, PNAS, 2007. In Nathanson et al (1993), there is evidence of these immunodeficiency viruses being in primates for a very long time. In the early days of HIV/AIDS epidemic, blood transfusions were one way that HIV was spread. And recently in the news was the finding that several people contracted HIV from an organ donor who had become HIV positive only weeks before death and organ harvesting.

Re:Hmm (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21629035)

Mod parent up. Evidence suggests that HIV crossed over to humans sometime in the early 20th century - there are records of deaths due to opportunistic infections that should not have affected the healthy patients they did as far back as the 1930s. It's similar to Lyme disease, which is the modern term for a disease that has probably been afflicting people for far longer - though the disease was "discovered" in 1976 clinical cases of debilitating neurological and musculoskeletal symptoms associated with unusual rashes have been recorded in medical records for over 100 years.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627313)

How do we know the the retrovirus genome didn't originate with the hosts themselves? Did these viruses evolve truly independently, or might they have started out as fragments of genetic code from some larger organism which somehow escaped and became self-sufficient?

Because we know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the mountain, the trees and the midgit. So everything inhabiting the midgit's body, even the retroviruses, were created by the FSM. It's pretty clear to me that there's absolutely no reason to believe that evolution was involved. Now, the decrease in pirate population, which as we all know has caused global warming, may have resulted in a more hospitable environment for these retroviruses. But that again does not imply evolution in any way.

Re:Hmm (4, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627389)

You're not the first to have that thought. It was part of the premise of Greg Bear's SF novel, Darwin's Radio. He, in turn, got the idea from various scientists, cited in the back of the book. (Sorry, no copy at hand.)

Re:Hmm (1)

Thu Anon Coward (162544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628255)

dang! you beat me to it. good thing I searched for the book in here first before posting about it. but did you read the sequel, Darwin's Children?

Re:Hmm (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21629141)

I read the sequel. Perhaps this was just my impression, but as time went on in the novels the main characters and their genetically enhanced kids just became more unlikeable - like the part where Kaye ponders (and accepts) that she'd shoot some unsuspecting vet if she wouldn't provide the antivirals for her kids. Maybe it's just my geek sympathy, but I liked the poor CDC researcher guy (the name of the character escapes me, it's been a few years since I read the novels) who was interested in her and gets snubbed, and then gets near killed in a terrorist bombing. I hoped something interesting would happen with him in Darwin's Children, but nah. It's just about Kaye and Her Man and her Awesome Mutant Kids. Oh, and Greg Bear uses the phrase "Mons Pubis" in a sex scene. Good grief.

Re:Hmm (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628089)

rebel RNA, most likely.

Cambrian explosion? (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627341)

Such viruses may be responsible for the Cambrian Explosion. A new kind of virus may have helped "share good ideas" like eyes, nervous systems, enzymes, etc. between different species of early animals. This may have propelled evolution by allowing life to mix and match instead of each branch having to reinvent stuff from scratch.

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627641)

So, bad virus could be some sort of buggy retrovirus?

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627759)

Such viruses may be responsible for the Cambrian Explosion.
Or maybe... The big change at the Cambrian was a mutation which allowed the creation of shells and bones.
 

Re:Cambrian explosion? (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628303)

Or maybe... The big change at the Cambrian was a mutation which allowed the creation of shells and bones.

I don't see those as a significant trigger mechanism. Early Cambrian fish hardly had any bones, I would note. And there's now plenty of soft-body precambrian fossils such that we know soft bodies existed in relative abundance at that time. They just lacked many features we take for granted, such as eyes, mouths, digestive tracks, and limbs; and don't seem to match up well with Cambrian-and-forward life.
       

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627835)

This sounds like some wishful thinking do you have any references?

Since most retrovirus markers are useless remnants and are just artifacts of past events. They are not a means of propagating "good ideas" since they are largely non-functional.

Re:Cambrian explosion? (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628345)

Since most retrovirus markers are useless remnants and are just artifacts of past events. They are not a means of propagating "good ideas" since they are largely non-functional.

For one, early life was simpler such that foreign genes may have been easier to integrate. Second, I've read that it appears that the mammilian placentia may have "learned" how to share life-giving fluids between baby and mother without the immune system complaining via a virus that knew how to disable the immune system for its own needs. I'll see if I can find the article. It was fascinating.

This sounds like some wishful thinking do you have any references?

No, its just speculation, as is all C.E. theories at this point.

Beneficial Viral Material (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628469)

I've read that it appears that the mammilian placentia may have "learned" how to share life-giving fluids between baby and mother without the immune system complaining via a virus that knew how to disable the immune system for its own needs. I'll see if I can find the article.

This is not the same article I originally read, but generally states the same thing:

http://www.dbc.uci.edu/~faculty/villarreal/new1/erv-placental.html [uci.edu]

Quote: "It is widely accepted that viral agents act a negative selecting force on their host. However, [embedded] viral agents [studied] have very high mutation and adaption rates. This character led Salvador Luria to speculate early on that perhaps viruses contribute to [beneficial] host evolution (52)."

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627847)

Some people take offense at implying their ancestry is of apes, imagine now that it's actually a hodgepodge from all sorts of animals like ducks and sea cucumbers. . .

Re:Cambrian explosion? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628367)

Some people take offense at implying their ancestry is of apes, imagine now that it's actually a hodgepodge from all sorts of animals like ducks and sea cucumbers. . .

Not if you've seen some of my dates [drum hit].
   

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627887)

It'd be pretty funny if "God" turned out to be a retrovirus....

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627911)

Do some actual reading. There was no 'explosion', except in the sense of leaving fossils behind because deposition of hard materials evolved. Those forms have precursors from the Ediacaran period.

Re:Cambrian explosion? (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628395)

Do some actual reading. There was no 'explosion', except in the sense of leaving fossils behind because deposition of hard materials evolved. Those forms have precursors from the Ediacaran period.

Most authors seem to disagree, at least for bilatera. The best candidate is Kimberella, a possible mollusk matched largely because of the "teeth" scrape marks found near fossils. The others have very uncertain relationships. Spriggina, for example, could be an arthropod, annelid (of earth-worm fame), or even a chordate ancestor, among other candidates.
     

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

DarkProphet (114727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628033)

Wow, that's actually a pretty heavy idea. In fact it could be the reason why viruses haven't received enough selection pressure to become extinct. I wonder if there is any evidence that a viral infection can have significant impact on the host's DNA. Or perhaps in the ova or sperm. It certainly would shortcut evolution. Hey maybe the world really was made 6000 years ago heh heh heh ;-)

Maybe we can get the creationists on this bandwagon!

Kidding aside, anyone know if that sort of thing is even possible? My google-fu isn't getting my questions answered today...

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628327)

I wonder if there is any evidence that a viral infection can have significant impact on the host's DNA.

I've seen a plant which was infected with a (naturally-occurring) virus which caused it to grow buds all over the tops of its leaves instead of just on its branches, so I would imagine the answer is "yes".

Re:Cambrian explosion? (1)

mattkime (8466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628493)

>>I've seen a plant which was infected with a (naturally-occurring) virus which caused it to grow buds all over the tops of its leaves instead of just on its branches, so I would imagine the answer is "yes".

that doesn't necessitate that the dna has changed, only that cells are differentiating oddly. pretty much all the cells in your body have the same dna although they perform very different functions.

Two SciFi novels I recommend (5, Informative)

ridgecritter (934252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627437)

that have emergence of HERVs at the core of their plotlines are Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children, by Greg Bear. Good reads, both.

Next up: (4, Funny)

Lost Penguin (636359) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627445)

Umbrella Corporation unavailable for comment.

Can you bring a virus back from the dead... (3, Informative)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627485)

If it was never alive in the first place?

Scientists still debate [wikipedia.org] if viruses meet the definition of life as we know it. I'm certainly not qualified to render an opinion on the matter; I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

Here's a PDF of a SciAm article about this very debate [uvm.edu] , written by the Director of Virus Research at UC Irvine.

"It's life, Jim, but not as we know it" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627607)

Scientists still debate if viruses meet the definition of life as we know it. I'm certainly not qualified to render an opinion on the matter; I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

At C2.com we've debated long and hard about a definition of "life". I favor a multi-factor approach. If enough factors score high, then it's "life". The factors include consume energy, reproduce, metabolize, capable of self-repair, and subject to natural selection, among others.

A lot of parasites depend on hosts, so depending on hosts shouldn't knock out viruses from qualifying.

Perhaps a Boolean definition is not the way to go. There are shades of gray and we should perhaps embrace them. I for one sort of welcome our semi-overlords.
     

Re:"It's life, Jim, but not as we know it" (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627839)

I for one sort of welcome our semi-overlords.

Too late. Resistance WAS futile! :P

Re:Can you bring a virus back from the dead... (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627953)


I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

Life or living is just a word, not reality. If a virus is alive or not alive is about as interesting a question as asking if submarines swim or not.

Re:Can you bring a virus back from the dead... (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628471)

The intent of your analogy is good, but the example is poor. I believe the canonical choice is whether planes fly.
Submarines most definitely do not swim by any standard definition of the word, but planes may or may not for various
definitions of fly. That is to say, planes (or helicopters) are more like Arthur Dent's perpetual falling than a bird.

This would make for a good book! (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 6 years ago | (#21627793)

This article, and the many creative postulations by the /. comunity really would make for a good book, or movie. Kind of a cool concept really.

Re:This would make for a good book! (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628625)

Like Parasite Eve, but a little bit less unfeasible.

people think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627833)

That we are large single organism,while in fact the organism is constant battleground of cells,viruses and bacteria,which have to live peacefully,unless they want the host to die a quick death.

Legit college level+ reading on the subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21627851)

As a chemical engineer, this subject is quite interesting and the potentials are strikingly similar to chemical (physical) analogues - a quick Google search, however, is awash in fiction. Any recommendations for legitimate texts on the subject?

So, how will the creationists spin this one? (0)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628125)

The article mentions how HIV can infect other primates but not cause disease, and even gives a molecular explanation. So how will this be spun?

Re:So, how will the creationists spin this one? (2, Insightful)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628459)

What do you mean "will?" It's nothing new, so they must have developed a "logical" retort by now.
We study HIV by infecting chimps and Rhesus monekys. Furthermore, it's long been thought/accepted
that HIV evolved from SIV.

"the body's own creations" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21628483)

"In 1970, when they detected biochemically that there is a reverse flow of genetic material, they didn't give up the dogma or even try to change it. Instead, they called it an exception to the central dogma of molecular genetics, and explained it by postulating the existence of retroviruses."

excellent article (1)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628503)

This article is probably the best to hit /. in months. This article was an excellent read. I can only hope there will be more articles like this, and not another review of some craptastic PS3/360/wii game. Real news!!

Re:excellent article (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21628819)

ERVs are one of the very few things that I've never seen Creationists come up with an answer for, beyond denying that there is such a thing as ERVs, of course. That's why fixing ERVs taken from a genome and reactivating is so important to showing what a lying pack of morons Creationists are.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?