Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis created a lifelong challenge for Stephen Hawking. The idea that endogenous retrovirus sequences can hang around in our genome and cause such diseases is receiving a cautious hearing:
Like many other animal species, humans carry viral remnants in their genomes, left behind from the integration of retrovirus sequences into the germline DNA of our ancestors over the course of millions of years. Today, these human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) exist as 450,000 fragments of biological code, representing 39 major viral groups, broken up and scattered throughout the genome. Nath asked his colleague Jeffrey Rothstein, now the director of Johns Hopkins’s Robert Packard Center for ALS Research, for some samples of postmortem brain tissue of ALS patients, and began to search them for RNA transcripts of HERV sequences. The work yielded one match: HERV-K, the youngest group of viral insertions in humans. The transcripts were specifically associated with ALS, Nath and his colleagues found; they were not present in the brains of healthy individuals who died in accidents or in the brains of Parkinson’s patients.1 Since then, Nath, who now heads the Section of Infections of the Nervous System at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and others have been steadily accumulating evidence that these viral sequences are expressed in a subset—about 30 percent—of ALS patients.Katarina Zimmer, “” at The Scientist
File this one with: The genome ain’t what it useter be..
See also: Is the age of the gene finally over? (Grab autographs, mementoes!) Does anybody here remember the 99% chimpanzee? So what? Maybe even HE isn’t 99% chimpanzee… not the way they thought, anyhow… Oh, and anyone recall the gene for how you vote? Stay tuned.
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