The most fascinating topic the article touched upon is how chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are easily infected by the AIDS virus, although it never makes them sick. This interesting fact led scientists to discover that the evolutionary process that protects us from certain viruses could be the reason why humans are vulnerable to AIDS. I learned from the article that there’s a difference between the genome of chimpanzees and humans, and that difference is due to the one hundred and thirty copies of a certain virus chimps have in their genome. Pan troglodytes, also called PtERV, is an endogenous retrovirus that infected gorillas and chimps four million years ago. Humans do not have a trace of that virus within their genome. Emerman, a virologist who studies the molecular and pathology of the AIDS virus, claims that two possibilities could of occurred for the virus,PtERV, to not be apart of the human genome : all of humans who came into contact with the virus died or humans have naturally developed a way to repel the virus. This natural way is the evolutionary process that protects humans from the virus, PtERV. Humans have a gene, called TRIM5, which produces a protein that binds to and destroys PtERV. Every primate has this gene, TRIM5, but it works differently in each primate to fit their evolutionary requirements. For example, that gene in the rhesus monkey provides protection against H.I.V infection.
Ultimately, this is evidence to prove that the genetic history of viruses could help us better understand the impact of modern diseases like AIDS. It’s weird to think that retroviruses could help us understand how humans have evolved and developed certain genes since viruses are nonliving. However, it makes sense to examine viruses because eight percent of our genome are made of broken and disabled retroviruses that have embedded themselves in the DNA of our ancestors. Viruses have played an essential role in the development of any species as seen in the experiments carried out by Weiss in the article (chickens and the ancestors of chickens, red jungle fowl, have similar versions of the same virus). Also it holds evidence that humans are descended from viruses, which is mind blowing.