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Ancient Neanderthal Viruses Found in Modern Human DNA

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posted on Nov, 26 2013 @ 09:11 PM
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By comparing the genetic data of modern day cancer patients to that found in fossils of our genetic ancestors, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, researchers learned that the same viruses that infect us today also infected Neanderthals more than half a million years ago.

The find suggests that that some viruses that infect us today have their origins in our ancestors, and the link establishes the possibility for research into whether modern diseases like HIV and cancer have roots in the past.

About 8 percent of human DNA is made of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are DNA sequences from viruses that pass from generation to generation. These ERVs are found in part of the DNA sequence with no known function; this seemingly useless DNA is often referred to as junk DNA.

"I wouldn't write it off as 'junk' just because we don't know what it does yet," said study co-author Gkikas Magiorkinis, of Oxford University's Department of Zoology. "Under certain circumstances, two 'junk' viruses can combine to cause disease -- we've seen this many times in animals already. ERVs have been shown to cause cancer when activated by bacteria in mice with weakened immune systems."
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Why is this useful information? Because it may lead to treatments for HIV patients. Right now they don’t know if the viruses are still active or cause disease in modern humans but they should find out soon enough. It has only been in the last year or so they could even do research like this due to technological limitations.




posted on Nov, 26 2013 @ 09:39 PM
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Interesting… and will we be able to deduce that cancer was viral at some time in the past before becoming a "genetic predisposition"?



posted on Dec, 2 2013 @ 03:53 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


This is really awesome on one hand and slightly disillusioning on the other. When I was in grad school, I hypothesized that AMH may have inadvertently wiped out Neanderthal in a similar fashion the Spanish did to the indigenous population of the Americas via diseases the indigenous population had no resistance to. It seems I wasn't as much a smarty pants as I thought when I was young if these diseases were already present in the European Neanderthal population. I also couldn't get any funding as the testing back then was far more expensive and nowhere near as accurate at that point in time. Maybe with more samples to work with we will find viruses that existed in AMH but not Neanderthal. The implications are far reaching and this level of accuracy will give us some amazing insights into our recent past.





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