Resurrection: Myth Turned Reality?

Darwin’s Surprise discusses viruses and recent discoveries regarding them. The most surprising thing for me was that scientists were able to recreate viruses that have been extinct for thousands of years, with their broken fragments. I had never heard such a phenomenon before. I think that it is both exciting and dangerous, with the possibilities that this presents scientists and researchers. It seems like there are a lot of things that can go wrong–such as the virus being able to replicate out of the scientists’ control, but there are also plenty of opportunities for research, creating drugs and vaccines, and understanding viruses better.

The articles suggest that DNA from viruses, specifically endogenous retroviruses, entered their host cells’ DNA and were passed on to their offspring. Eventually, these fragments were broken, but their genes still exist within the descendents of the original host cells. This is most likely how mammals gained the ability to give live births, rather than eggs. The viruses introduced new genes and therefore traits, increasing diversity. I think that this is interesting, because most people think of viruses only as harmful and disease-causing, but they have actually helped us in certain aspects. It made me look at viruses in a new light, because while they are harmful and millions of people die from diseases caused by viruses, they also helped give humans beneficial traits.

I think that science should revive dead viruses because despite the risks, there are many benefits that can come from studying these ancient viruses. Expanding the kinds of viruses that we study will help us better understand how they function. In turn, this will help us to be better able to fight off viruses with drugs and vaccines developed with such knowledge. As long as scientists are able to keep the viruses under control (replicating x amount of times and no more than that), I think that science should revive dead viruses.

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One Response to Resurrection: Myth Turned Reality?

  1. LiciR. says:

    I agree with you, and I think the article begins to talk about the advantages we have had in reviving old viruses. For example, we discovered the difference in human immunity to PtERV by reviving an ancient strand of the virus and running experiments. Similarly, scientists are working on proteins that could modify human genes, and make us as a species more resistant to HIV. That goes back to the idea that virus are beneficial to humans, which is a very strange idea to us. But the idea that viruses shaped us into human beings, and that they might cause a new/more fit species of humans to arise, is incredibly fascinating.

    However, you are right. Everything in moderation. These viruses went extinct for a reason, and many of them have the potential to kill us. I agree with your statement that scientists should keep the number of replications under control. I’m not sure how they do that, but it’s a really smart way to continue investigating while eliminating the risk of new endemics.

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