My Response

I found this article extremely interesting, as many of the topics were previously unfamiliar to me. When I started reading, the words “life” and “alive” popped off the page. John coffin stated, “I understand that the idea of bringing something dead back to life is fundamentally frightening.” We all know that since a virus does not meet the five criteria of being a living organism that it cannot be categorized as such, yet here we have a prominent scientist that very openly calls them either dead or alive. These scientists seem to have so much respect for these viruses and the immense role they play in the world that they cannot bring themselves to call them anything other than living. They work with these “killing machines” everyday and have, through countless efforts, found ways to makes vaccines and use these viruses for good. Reading this part reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Faults In Our Stars. A sick cancer patient named Augustus always has an unlit cigarette in his mouth. His reason for doing so is that he loves the metaphor. He puts the thing that does the killing in his mouth but never gives it the power to kill him. To me, that is similar to what research with vaccines is doing today. Scientists manipulate the killing thing so that it doesn’t have the power to kill but rather save.

What I found most intriguing was the sections that discussed how without these endogenous retroviruses we most likely would never have had placentas which have been monumental in mammalian development. It allows for live births, protection of the growing fetus, more specifically allowing for thermo-regulation, and the absorption of nutrients from the mother which includes large supplies of oxygen through the blood supply. All of these advantages that are necessary to life as we know it as mammals all came from viruses. While pondering this I became stumped by the odd mammal out, the Platypus. The Platypus lays eggs, yet is still a mammal. Did they diverge from a common ancestor before the rest of the mammals inherited this endogenous retrovirus, or did nature simply select later on for Platypi without the retrovirus? There is no way as of now to know but these are the types of questions that this new research is posing. It seems to be an unending cycle. As we learn more and more about viruses, the more questions we seem to have.

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