There is a virus in your DNA, and you need it to live

The microscopic world is amazing, and if I had to choose I would definitely be left with the curious and interesting field of virology.

Existing more viruses than galaxies, these microscopic beings (consider themselves alive or inert) have earned the interest of thousands of researchers and are revealing more information every day about what could be the origin of life and the universe.

In the past decade, amazing quirks of these obligate parasites have been revealed. More than 8% of our genome is viral DNA, which comes from an infection that happened to our ancestors millions of years ago.

The virus in human DNA that keeps us alive

A new study led by geneticists from the University of Utah Health Sciences, has identified that more than half of the genes in this Viral DNA, are related to the initiation of the response of our immune system, that is, to the activation of our defenses.

Published in the magazine Science, the study shows how the fragments of viral DNA in our genome regulate genes that are integrating our components of the immune system, and how removing these genes we lack the adequate defense to fight infections and cellular processes that put the life of our cells at stake.

Our immune system It comprises a set of elements that will allow the cellular alarms to go off, establish a series of signals that will be integrated, and will end with the elaboration of a fully coordinated response.

Contrasting the vast bank of human genetic information, the researchers found that endogenous retroviruses respond extensively to interfern, a molecule involved in the immune response. However, since these retroviruses landed in our genome millions of years ago, they lost the ability to produce infectious particles.

Analyzing the study of the virus in human DNA

To test whether these pieces of viral DNA were really important in the immune response, the researchers used the novel genetic editing technique. CRISPR /Cas9, so that they could accurately remove the viral sequences in our DNA.

In mutant cells lacking these viral sequences, failure of interferon response and activation was found, and a large vulnerability to infection by other viruses.

Living with our worst enemy

It is totally a paradox that at present, the viral threat constitutes a great problem for world health, at the same time that it is part of us and keeps us alive. This study is one more piece of the chaotic puzzle of the origin of life on earth.

Viruses allowed life on earth? already exist on some other planet in the galaxy? Little by little we will discover in more detail the role of these microorganisms in the history of the universe.

Source | University of Utah