Our evolutionary biologists and geneticists are hot on the trail of various viruses and how we, meaning all of us living things, evolve.

This article, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140429085341.htm, shows a new technique that allows the researchers to track the genetics of the Koalas and the invading retrovirus over the last 130 years. Pretty interesting. It should improve our techniques in medical research too, and that will help us humans improve our lot.

The full paper of the research is freely available here:http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0095633

This is interesting, though perhaps childish in its statement, http://www.koalaworlds.com/koala-evolution/ This one is a little better: https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/history-koalas From the same site: https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/interesting-facts

This is the article that caught my eye and focused it on koalas for a moment:

Eight percent of your genome derives from retroviruses that inserted themselves into human sex cells millions of years ago. Right now the koala retrovirus (KoRV) is invading koala genomes, a process that can help us understand our own viral lineage and make decisions about managing this vulnerable species.

From here: http://www.igb.illinois.edu/misc_news/koala-study-reveals-clues-about-origins-human-genome

Your genome includes retroviruses. You are walking around with virus all the time as part of you, no longer infecting, but part of what you are.

We get to study what is going on with the koalas.

The research paper it refers to is paywalled: http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org//content/early/2014/09/25/molbev.msu275.abstract

So sad that information is so often held hostage, for ransom.

Anyway:

Koalas are the only known organisms where a retrovirus is transitioning from exogenous to endogenous. An exogenous retrovirus infects a host, inserts its genetic information into the cell’s DNA, and uses the host cell’s machinery to manufacture more viruses. When an exogenous retrovirus infects an egg or sperm cell and the viral genetic information is then passed down to the host’s offspring, the virus becomes an endogenous retrovirus (ERV).

Note that we try to stop it. Our systems have evolved defenses, but stuff happens.

While reading the article, it is wise to keep in mind that viruses and DNA do not “try”. Things happen. We aren’t sure of all the mechanisms yet, and there seem to be synergistic combinations, but the fact is, most of genetics is just chemical trial and error. The beneficial trials help us (life) survive. The rest don’t, some even kill us. Thus, 99.9% of all species that have ever lived on earth are already extinct. That is, the odds are bad. Never lose sight of that fact. Thank God for the success we have.

Advertisements