New study from Lund University in Sweden indicates that inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterise the human brain.
Researchers have long been aware that endogenous retroviruses constitute around five per cent of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side-effect of our evolutionary journey.
In the current study, Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues show that retroviruses seem to play a central role in the basic functions of the brain, more specifically in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when. The findings indicate that, over the course of evolution, the viruses took an increasingly firm hold on the steering wheel in our cellular machinery. The reason the viruses are activated specifically in the brain is probably due to the fact that tumours cannot form in nerve cells, unlike in other tissues.
“We have been able to observe that these viruses are activated specifically in the brain cells and have an important regulatory role. We believe that the role of retroviruses can contribute to explaining why brain cells in particular are so dynamic and multifaceted in their function. It may also be the case that the viruses’ more or less complex functions in various species can help us to understand why we are so different,” says Johan Jakobsson, head of the research team for molecular neurogenetics at Lund University. More.
So don’t fire your junk DNA.
Someone told Dan Graur this yet? Dan Who? Well…
Okay, remember Dan Graur, the guy who made a scene about the ENCODE findings (that there is much less junk in the human genome than previously thought)? He claimed that if Encode is right, “then Evolution is wrong.” As other scientists have pointed out, ENCODE is mainly a problem for the propaganda fronted by Darwin’s followers, not for the human genome.
Darwin’s followers get caught on the wrong side of so many battles these days.
What can we responsibly believe about human evolution?
Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?
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