Viruses are fun

This article is titled “Darwin’s Surprise” because he was the main guy who proved evolution by the means of natural selection, and this article talks about the discovery of viruses and how they can insert their genes into our genome and become passed down through a species. This foreign viral DNA that is passed down has been proven to give us advantages, thus aiding us in our own evolution. Darwin had no knowledge of chromosomes or DNA so he would probably be insanely overwhelmed of how much biology has progressed because not only do we know what our genetic code structure is, we can find and isolate specific genes and understand the interactions of proteins that creates these phenotypic traits. Then, he would probably freak out about the idea of a parasite being able to fuse its own genetic information with our own in our gametes and then become a permanent part of the new generations genome. This effect viruses can have on our own genome opens up a whole new area of genetic variation. We now know that evolution can be by the means of interactions between viruses and organisms.

What really excites me in the article is the fact that a certain viral code that resides in our species genome has to do with our placenta, which was a very big turning point in evolution and enabled us to give live birth instead of lay eggs, which was deemed advantageous in that environment. THANK YOU VIRUS.

Also, it’s really cool that scientists are able to find specific fragments of viral dna in our genomes and then reconstruct an extinct virus, and then use the information learned about this old virus to aid the synthesization of vaccines for living viruses. Although reviving dead viruses sound scary and dangerous, it is a huge help because of all the information it can give us, so this reviving should be utilized. We are already able to engineer highly destructive viruses, yet that has not stopped scientists from experimenting and building and learning from this manipulation, so why not “revive” these dead viruses and learn from them as well.

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3 Responses to Viruses are fun

  1. AzizeA says:

    I’m personally not as worried about the dangers of recreating ancient and potentially hazardous viruses. Partially because I think that the benefits of being able to explore the evolutionary history of viruses (especially lentiviruses) would end up protecting more people than it could theoretically harm, and partially because, especially with all the information we have on viruses and the speed at which people can test for them and the ability we have to isolate outbreaks, I think the actual chances of remade viruses being able to do anything really dangerous is slim. There are already labs that store and test viruses that have wiped out millions of human being before (for example Thierry Heidmann’s lab) with no one concerned for the possible dangers it could hold, because the people there know how to handle working with these viruses. And just imagine how much more of our own genome we could study if we could look at the evolution of older viruses, if ten percent of our current genome is made up of them.

  2. ArielI says:

    I definitely agree with your comments about how much we have learned since Darwin. We have uncovered so much more from what he had originally discovered and I do believe he would be overwhelmed with the amount of information we currently have on all organism and now, viruses. When I read about the placenta, I was also really surprised. It’s something that’s so essential to the production on life and to think that it came from a virus is unimaginable. If it weren’t for a virus, all organisms would be laying eggs right now. I also agree that we should try to revive certain viruses to learn from them, but a big issue is containment of these viruses. I believe we should only revive the ones that scientists are sure they can control, because if not, a lot of damage can be done.

  3. SunnyB says:

    I can’t disagree with your comment. The mentioning of a specific viral code which assisted in humans being able to give birth instead of laying eggs was a very surprising fact, because all my life I thought of viruses as a nuisance or something harmful which I want to get out of their system asap, but I didn’t realize that viruses could have had a beneficial impact on us as well.

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