Retrovirus infections represent the most intimate host-pathogen relationship. The virus inserts a copy of its genome into the DNA of the host cell, resulting in an irreversible, stable and sometimes lifelong infection. If a sperm or egg cell is infected, the virus DNA can be passed down generations, permanently fixed in the germ line. As a result, an endogenous retrovirus (ERV) can exist for millions of years.
“Over the course of evolution, retroviruses have invaded the germ-line of our ancestors on numerous occasions. Now, human ERVs (HERVs) make up around 8% of our genome,” say Dr David Griffiths from the Moredun Research Institute and Cécile Voisset from the Faculté de Médecine et des Sciences de la Santé in France.
Although there are no viruses similar to these ancient pathogens currently infecting humans, there are some related viruses in animals. For a retrovirus to become part of the host genome it is usually inactivated by mutation or silencing so it does not express any proteins. An epidemic of neoplastic disease in Australian koalas is giving researchers the rare opportunity to study this process.
“Recent work has provided some tantalizing evidence supporting the roles of HERVs in normal physiology and also in disease,” says Dr Griffiths, “they can be seen as bona fide human genes.” Some HERVs may be crucial for a healthy pregnancy, whereas others have been linked to diseases like MS and cancer.
“It is only recently that the abundance of HERVs has been recognised and we are learning that they can have significant functions,” says Dr Griffiths.
Lucy Goodchild | alfa
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences