Geneticists have identified retroviruses in the human DNA, which presumably came here more than a million years ago by our ancestors. Retroviruses are a fairly large family of viruses that infect mainly vertebrates - HIV is the best known one.
According to scientists, this discovery will help find out what sickness had old people and how they treated. Perhaps this knowledge will help in the development of treatments for HIV and other retroviruses.
More than 10 pieces of retroviruses and the fully preserved virus genome in the original form were found in the human genome. The experts have noted that they can "pull" the ancient virus from the human DNA and make agent from it which will be capable of infecting. John Coffin, a member of the research team, explained that the experiment is extremely interesting for the scientific community because it would examine the "behavior" of viruses in ancient times, before the advent of modern man.
Endogenous retroviruses are able to penetrate into the DNA and modify it. That causes a variety of gene mutations dangerous for life. The human genome has about 8% of the genes of endogenous retroviruses, they are included in the non-coding DNA that is in the part where there is no "instructions" to produce proteins.
Dr. Coffin and his colleagues conducted a comparison and analysis of the structure of DNA in more than 2 000 people living in different countries. The researchers also studied the African population, whose ancestors had not interbred with Neanderthal people. The research helped establish that the human DNA contains much more residues of retroviruses than it was expected.
Comparing the genomes of different people, scientists found out that such retroviruses there are in separate representatives of mankind. Scientists do not expect similar results - the number of retroviruses was quite large, Coffin’s group found only 20 endogenous retroviruses, one of them was completely preserved as the virus and the rest were only fragments in the DNA.
According to fragmentary parts of the virus that are quite badly damaged and include a lot of repetitions, the experts can not explain how these viruses behave penetrating into the human body and what the consequences were.
According to the research team, the revealed retrovirus is the second, which is fully present in our DNA (the first one is provirus K113, which is in the DNA of 1/4 of the world population).
John Coffin noted in his statement that understanding the past is essential to build the future. That is why the discovery is so important to science and allows us to learn deeper processes of diseases and treatment that took place more than a million years ago. And it will also help to improve the treatment of modern retroviral infections (HIV, cancer hematopoietic tumors or lymphoid tissue, etc.)