Morning Cup O' Joe

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“Junk DNA” Re-Awakened to Fight HIV

What? We (humans) have had the potential ability to naturally resist HIV-1?  Well, golley-gee, Toto, let me click my heels and decry, “There’s no place like our genomes! There’s no place like our genomes!”

In all seriousness, this is a huge breakthrough and something to keep an eye on:

A group of scientists led by Nitya Venkataraman and Alexander Colewhether wanted to try a new approach to fighting HIV – one that worked with the body’s own immune system. They knew Old World monkeys had a built-in immunity to HIV: a protein called retrocyclin, which can prevent HIV from entering cell walls and starting an infection. So they began poring over the human genome, looking to see if humans had a latent gene that could manufacture retrocyclin too. It turned out that we did, but a "nonsense mutation" in the gene had turned it off at some point in our evolutionary history.

The human cells made retrocyclin, fended off HIV, and effectively became AIDS-resistant. And it was done entirely using the latent potential in the so-called junk DNA of the human genome.

For the more scientific-minded, here’s a more technical article. For the rest, here’s a summary.

via io9 via PLoS Biology


April 28, 2009 - Posted by | News, Science and Technology | , , , , , , , ,

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