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Biotech Science

The Role of Retroviruses in Human Evolution 133

Posted by Zonk
from the gotta-love-that-twisty-tree-of-life dept.
mhackarbie writes "The current edition of the New Yorker magazine has up a story about endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of humans and other species. Although researchers have known about such non-functional retroviral 'fossils' in the human genome for some time, the large amount of recent genomic data underscores just how pervasive they are, in a compelling tale that involves humans, their primate cousins, and a variety of viral invaders. Some researchers are even bringing back non-functional viral remnants from the dead by fixing their broken genes."
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The Role of Retroviruses in Human Evolution

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  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @05:41PM (#21626971) Homepage Journal
    Some researchers are even bringing back non-functional viral remnants from the dead by fixing their broken genes."


    So what you're saying is we will now have zombie viruses?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2007 @05:45PM (#21626987)
      Zombie viruses, huh? Now might be a good time to take stock in really tiny shotguns.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        This is no laughing matter. Solanum [wikipedia.org] is serious sh*t!
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        But only after we find a way to shrink Simon Pegg small enough to use them!
      • by Natomui (821656)
        Made by nanotube-excreting bacteria [slashdot.org]! We solved our problem by creating a new one! ...yeah! go us.
    • Well, I for one welcome our new undead zombie retrovirus overlords!
    • Didn't Jurassic Park teach us anything. Instead of T-Rex eating our lawyers we'll have our lawyers keeling over dead from fossil viri.
      • by Oktober Sunset (838224) <sdpage103NO@SPAMyahoo.co.uk> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:33PM (#21627297)
        Either way, lawyers die, which shows there is no downside meddling in genetic engineering.
        • by jo7hs2 (884069)
          Well, all the lawyers can rest easy that either way, you too will die.
          • Well, all the lawyers can rest easy that either way, you too will die.
            Well, seeing as how I'll be a lawyer in less than two years, I just hope that other people die first. That way, some of the survivors can enlist me to sue the scientists who brought about our retrovirus microlords (whom I, for one, welcome).
      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        And the downside to either scenario is?

        A lawyer friend of mine remarked once about how 98% of lawyers screw it up for the rest of them. Personally, I'm wondering if the research into these fossil viri encoded into our genome will shed light on how we evolved lawyers.

        Especially if they come up with a cure...

    • by skeftomai (1057866) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:30PM (#21627279)
      Are viruses even alive in the first place?
      • by seededfury (699094) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:56PM (#21627425) Homepage
        "Viruses and aberrant prion proteins are often considered replicators rather than forms of life, a distinction warranted because they cannot reproduce without very specialized substrates such as host cells or proteins, respectively.."

        Life [wikipedia.org]
        • (I just want to make it clear that I agree with evolution and natural selection. I only ask to further my knowledge and understanding of the subject). Why does my biology book use HIV as an example of natural selection if HIV is not alive?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by GwaihirBW (1155487)
            Natural selection is a general principle that applies to anything that reproduces -- things that reproduce well will continue to exist and spread, and when variation occurs, those variants that are best equipped to survive and reproduce successfully in a given environment will come to dominate the population. This has even been applied to ideas in the greatly overhyped meme theory [wikipedia.org].
        • by pclminion (145572)
          Cellular life can't reproduce without a very specialized substrate, either. It's called "The Earth." Take earth based life pretty much anywhere in the universe, and it dies. How is that not "specialized?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eniac42 (1144799)
      Why, its a plan that is almost entirely without a drawback, as far as I can see..
  • Oh no! (Score:1, Troll)

    by Quasar1999 (520073)
    Fixing the genes of 'broken' viruses that clearly have the ability to infect us seems pretty damned stupid. Spanish flu, Avian flu, 30,000 BC flu... Here comes the next pandemic. While we're at fixing 'broken' viruses in our DNA, let's fix other viruses while we're at it... Why don't we just fix that part where they're drug resistant? Oh... we can't do that? Then what the hell makes them think we have enough knowledge to 'fix' the ones in our DNA?
    • Re:Oh no! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @05:55PM (#21627021)
      Obviously if enough individuals survived with cells reproducing its DNA containing the retrovirus for it to become a species-wide "fossil" it was either not very harmful or possibly even beneficial to our ancestors. You might be able to make the case that perhaps we have since lost the ability to combat these retroviruses, but then we must consider the possibility that in some individuals these portions of dormant virus data have been reactivate naturally. If this has occurred and we are indeed now ill equipt to fight it, then it would have been observed as some disease and possibly classified as a genetic disorder. Who knows, by reactivating these, we have discover the cause, and subsequently the cure (as obviously we naturally beat it once) to some terrible genetic malady!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by GwaihirBW (1155487)

        Well, the cure might or might not be so easy . . . if we already knew it was a genetic malady, there's a good chance we knew the gene to some degree, and finding out that it's an ancestral retrovirus gives fairly minimal new information on how to address it. If we were once tolerant of it and now are not, that implies some cost to the tolerance-granting genes, since we lost them . . . in that case, they may not be around to find, and even if they are, where do you look? If we acquired some new trait that m

      • If I have beneficial bacteria in my gut that keeps dangerous ones from living there, perhaps we can revitalize some harmless retrovirus to compete for the niche that the AIDS retrovirus lives in.
        • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:27PM (#21627621)
          While that might seem a valid comparison it unfortunately wrong on to points

          1. The role of your bacteria in your gut is not to prevent bad bacteria from living there but to help with digestion. However since bacteria on your skin do have this competition role I'll accept it as a valid point.

          2. Viruses come, ursurp the mechanisms of the cell to make it produce copies, and then kill the cell to move on (in most cases). Hence using "good" viruses isn't going to make the bad viruses go away. What has happened with the "good" viruses is that they were once bad, but as part of their attack on a cell they merged their rna into our dna which become deactivated and over time changed into a new and positive role.
          • by Raindance (680694) *
            I'll agree with your second point, but I strongly disagree with your first. One of the main roles that 'good' gut flora plays is to outcompete bad bacteria. It's apples and oranges, but I'd place that role slightly ahead of helping with digestion. Perhaps the third most important role for gut flora is to help train and condition the immune system.

            There's a constant war going on in peoples' guts, make no mistake.
        • by GwaihirBW (1155487) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:27PM (#21627629)
          Unfortunately viruses don't compete directly in that potentially harmless way . . . HIV's niche is in your T cells (and others), reproducing itself until the cell explodes. Viruses [wikipedia.org] don't really prey on each other (they are simple RNA injection machines that parasitically use the replication mechanisms of cells they infect for reproduction. The only way for another virus to block it is to just kill all the potential target cells first (not so helpful) or to infect them with counter-RNA that neutralizes that of HIV. The problem with the second is that unless it's also doing dangerous things to you, that helper virus isn't going to be able to spread in order to combat the HIV. It's just not the same as gut bacteria - they take up residence on the limited available real estate, do some digesting of the food you helpfully provide, and defend their turf from unwanted invaders while managing their own reproduction and such, whereas viruses are hijackers by nature.
      • As the article mentions, some retroviruses can become activated in cancer cells. This is one way people have proposed for identifying cancer cells for destruction. But the fossilized retroviruses in this article have become mutated, most likely in an enzyme that is required for them to be functional. The integrase protein actually splices the viral DNA into the host DNA. If that DNA has a part that is nonfunctional, then the DNA may be nonfunctional. That is, it will not be made into messenger RNAs and thus
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by krel (588588)
      You're right, we should never research diseases. We might infect ourselves with them.
    • HIV is the only virus in which drug resistance is a problem - because most aren't affected by any drugs in the first place. Maybe you're thinking of bacteria [microbeworld.org]?

      In any case, I'd prefer it if they'd experiment with mouse retroviruses instead...
      • by cnettel (836611)
        There are several other viruses that are affected to some degree by drugs, e.g. Tamiflu and many others. The main problem is that one generally wants to hit early in the lifecycle, as the point is to stop the exponential growth. The other problem is that treatment by for example interferone can certainly help against several viral infections (but, again, you would generally need to administer it before you see any symptoms), but it would frequently also cause worse effects than the original disease.
        • True, but there hasn't been any equivalent to penicillin, and something that broad-spectrum is probably impossible with viruses. Few could be considered life-saving, or even useful. Valacyclovir and similar drugs for herpes viruses, I suppose. But vaccines and the body's own immune system have been far more effective against viruses than any drug. As you said, the nature of most viral infections make them much more difficult to treat, since they've probably been reproducing exponentially for days before sym
      • by megaditto (982598)
        In any case, I'd prefer it if they'd experiment with mouse retroviruses instead...

        I cannot use a keyboard, YIC.
      • by shawb (16347)
        Viruses are indeed not affected by antibiotics, as they primarily affect bacteria. There are a whole host of antivirals [wikipedia.org] which do indeed fit into the category of "drug" to which they can build up a resistance, as antivirals tend to operate on a very specific subunit of a molecule (either genomic or proetnaceous.)
        • But, as I said, most viruses are not affected by any of them, because they are so specific. Antivirals have only been developed for a few viruses, and the only one for which resistance has been a problem is HIV. This is in response to "Why don't we just fix that part where they're drug resistant?"... drug-resistant "superbugs" aren't a problem with viruses because very few are affected by drugs in the first place. No MRSA without methicillin...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cpricejones (950353)
      Viruses are relatively speaking, very simple. They have very few genes, and they have few functions. By comparison, simple bacteria often have several hundred times as many genes. If we want to understand how organisms work period, it's necessary to start with the basics. I study retrovirus proteins, and our collaborators routinely use "live" HIV viruses to infect cells. The procedures are quite standard. In those experiments, often the HIV strain that is used can only infect cells one time and cannot repli
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Researchers work every day with viruses that are known to be incredibly dangerous, not just those that might be such as these putative retroviral fossils. So if you're worrying about something escaping the lab and causing a global pandemic, there are more serious threats. Really, this is pretty safe compared to ongoing work on, say, Ebola.
    • too late. we've already revived ancient viruses from our genome and they are found to be extremely bad at infecting eucaryotes like us. it could be for any number of reasons, the RNA-i based defenses, millions of years of evolution, the fact these viruses didn't manage to replicate themselves without excising themselves from our genome- take your pick. The fact is that viruses that exist *now* are the ones you should be worrying about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm giving up mod privileges on this to comment.

      If we "fix that part where they're drug resistant", it would make no difference, unless we could eliminate those viruses in the first place. It's like trying to populate the world with only mice that were more likely to get caught in traps. It would only be possible if we could eliminate all the mice in the world, and then introduce these 'dumb' mice into the wild. What's the point of repopulating the world with dumb mice if we didn't want mice in the first

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:04PM (#21627073)
    See the thing about retroviruses is that once they work their way into the genome, they begin to do wack things. They predispose the person to wear bell bottom geans, listen to funk music, wear tube socks, and any number of out of fashion things. They begin to force the person to speak in archaic manners, eg "Thou hast been up intowards my grill!" So I think it's safe to say that we need to eliminate retroviruses as a mechanism of mutation. There comes a time to let certain things go.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:17PM (#21627167)

    How do we know the the retrovirus genome didn't originate with the hosts themselves? Did these viruses evolve truly independently, or might they have started out as fragments of genetic code from some larger organism which somehow escaped and became self-sufficient?

    In other words, when we look at the human genome and say, "This is riddled with retroviruses!" is it not possible that the retroviruses were actually there all along, and only later became able to leave the parent cell and operate independently?

    Are retroviruses actually just chunks of "rebel DNA" from our own genome, or possibly from some other species?

    • hat you're describing is probably possible, but for any given stretch of DNA encoding the right polymerases, it's a lot more likely that it's a retrovirus that lost the ability to leave the cell than that it's a transposon that gained that ability.
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:27PM (#21627247) Homepage Journal
        What you're describing is probably possible, but for any given stretch of DNA encoding the right polymerases, it's a lot more likely that it's a retrovirus that lost the ability to leave the cell than that it's a transposon that gained that ability and then lost it again.

        Is what I meant to say.
        • by shawb (16347)
          That's something I've been thinking about... where else would viruses originate in the fist place? They are obligate parasites, meaning that they can not reproduce without their host. I can not think of many places in the world where DNA (or RNA, since we are talking about retroviruses) exists in large numbers along with ribosomes to provide successful translation of the accessory proteins needed to properly exit the cell and then reinfect a new cell. I guess I'm claiming that viruses originated as trans
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:29PM (#21627265) Homepage Journal
      That is a damn good question.

      A 'rebel DNA leaving home' must have happened at least once, in some species, otherwise how could viruses exist? They seem way too complex to have happened by chance, and they can't evolve until they are complex enough to infect.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by maxume (22995)
        Do they really infect? Or do they do something else?

        My impression is that bacteria are in the habit of absorbing random fragments of DNA from their environment. I can see where some accident would cause such a fragment to carry the instruction 'replicate me' and little else, thus making things interesting. So not so much leaving home as taking it over destructively. Throw in billions of years and trillions of organisms and it starts to get a little ridiculous trying to make any guesses at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LordLucless (582312)
        I'd imagine other forms of life to be more complicated than viruses, and the general consensus seems to be that they developed by random chance - they can't evolve until they're complicated enough to reproduce.
        • The other forms of life had at least two parts: code and something that can execute the code. ( BTW, those two parts can be amazingly simple: see Stuart Kaufmann's writings on autocatalytic networks ) But retroviruses, by definition, only have the code part, and it can't evolve by itself.

          So a complex code-and-execution organism can evolve from a simple code-and-execution organism. But a complex code-only organism can't evolve from a simple code-only organism. ( unless it hijacks something else's exec
      • From what I was just reading now, maybe the RNA world which some theorists have speculated (theorized) predated the DNA biological world we presently live in was the place where something like viruses could reproduce themselves.

        But I'm probably misunderstanding everything I read today.

        My personal opinion?

        I remember playing with a 6802 prototyping board with a flaky power-on reset circuit. (I used cheap switches from Radio Shack.) It had a monitor ROM, of course, then later it had BASIC in ROM. If power came
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cpricejones (950353) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:32PM (#21627293)
      To understand this, you can do sequence comparisons between retroviral genes and our own genes. For example, retroviruses have an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This enzyme is a type of polymerase. We have many polymerases in our body, and if RT developed from one of them, then there would be very substantial sequence similarity. This is one way to figure out what proteins do if you do not know their function. You compare their amino acid sequence to other known proteins and see if they are similar. This is very common, and it is how researchers establish relationships between retroviruses to understand how they evolve. For example, HIV is a member of the subgroup of retroviruses called lentiviruses, and these viruses have many things in common. HIV has a cousin called SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) that is very similar. A really good reference is Coffin, RETROVIRUSES, from Cold Spring Harbor Press.
      • Before someone makes a sex with monkeys joke, I would like to point out that HIV is not entirely a sexually transmitted disease. It is actually spread by blood contact due to damaged tissues during sex. SIV most likely made the leap over to humans due to hunting and consumption of simians.
        • Just to add a little bit to that: There are also theories that suggest that HIV has been in the human population for much longer than one might think (early 1980s). See Gilbert et al, PNAS, 2007. In Nathanson et al (1993), there is evidence of these immunodeficiency viruses being in primates for a very long time. In the early days of HIV/AIDS epidemic, blood transfusions were one way that HIV was spread. And recently in the news was the finding that several people contracted HIV from an organ donor who ha
          • by samkass (174571)
            Since HIV-1 was isolated pretty much every blood sample known to have ever been taken in history has been retroactively tested. The earliest confirmed HIV-1 positive blood sample in the world is from 1959 in Congo. The earliest US (St Louis) HIV-1 positive blood sample is from 1969.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:50PM (#21627389) Homepage Journal
      You're not the first to have that thought. It was part of the premise of Greg Bear's SF novel, Darwin's Radio. He, in turn, got the idea from various scientists, cited in the back of the book. (Sorry, no copy at hand.)
      • dang! you beat me to it. good thing I searched for the book in here first before posting about it. but did you read the sequel, Darwin's Children?
    • rebel RNA, most likely.
  • Cambrian explosion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:40PM (#21627341) Homepage Journal
    Such viruses may be responsible for the Cambrian Explosion. A new kind of virus may have helped "share good ideas" like eyes, nervous systems, enzymes, etc. between different species of early animals. This may have propelled evolution by allowing life to mix and match instead of each branch having to reinvent stuff from scratch.
    • by Darfeld (1147131)
      So, bad virus could be some sort of buggy retrovirus?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Colin Smith (2679)

      Such viruses may be responsible for the Cambrian Explosion.
      Or maybe... The big change at the Cambrian was a mutation which allowed the creation of shells and bones.
       
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        Or maybe... The big change at the Cambrian was a mutation which allowed the creation of shells and bones.

        I don't see those as a significant trigger mechanism. Early Cambrian fish hardly had any bones, I would note. And there's now plenty of soft-body precambrian fossils such that we know soft bodies existed in relative abundance at that time. They just lacked many features we take for granted, such as eyes, mouths, digestive tracks, and limbs; and don't seem to match up well with Cambrian-and-forward life
    • This sounds like some wishful thinking do you have any references?

      Since most retrovirus markers are useless remnants and are just artifacts of past events. They are not a means of propagating "good ideas" since they are largely non-functional.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        Since most retrovirus markers are useless remnants and are just artifacts of past events. They are not a means of propagating "good ideas" since they are largely non-functional.

        For one, early life was simpler such that foreign genes may have been easier to integrate. Second, I've read that it appears that the mammilian placentia may have "learned" how to share life-giving fluids between baby and mother without the immune system complaining via a virus that knew how to disable the immune system for its own
        • I've read that it appears that the mammilian placentia may have "learned" how to share life-giving fluids between baby and mother without the immune system complaining via a virus that knew how to disable the immune system for its own needs. I'll see if I can find the article.

          This is not the same article I originally read, but generally states the same thing:

          http://www.dbc.uci.edu/~faculty/villarreal/new1/erv-placental.html [uci.edu]

          Quote: "It is widely accepted that viral agents act a negative selecting force on t
    • by ookabooka (731013)
      Some people take offense at implying their ancestry is of apes, imagine now that it's actually a hodgepodge from all sorts of animals like ducks and sea cucumbers. . .
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        Some people take offense at implying their ancestry is of apes, imagine now that it's actually a hodgepodge from all sorts of animals like ducks and sea cucumbers. . .

        Not if you've seen some of my dates [drum hit].
           
    • by c6gunner (950153)
      It'd be pretty funny if "God" turned out to be a retrovirus....
    • Do some actual reading. There was no 'explosion', except in the sense of leaving fossils behind because deposition of hard materials evolved. Those forms have precursors from the Ediacaran period.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        Do some actual reading. There was no 'explosion', except in the sense of leaving fossils behind because deposition of hard materials evolved. Those forms have precursors from the Ediacaran period.

        Most authors seem to disagree, at least for bilatera. The best candidate is Kimberella, a possible mollusk matched largely because of the "teeth" scrape marks found near fossils. The others have very uncertain relationships. Spriggina, for example, could be an arthropod, annelid (of earth-worm fame), or even a ch
    • Wow, that's actually a pretty heavy idea. In fact it could be the reason why viruses haven't received enough selection pressure to become extinct. I wonder if there is any evidence that a viral infection can have significant impact on the host's DNA. Or perhaps in the ova or sperm. It certainly would shortcut evolution. Hey maybe the world really was made 6000 years ago heh heh heh ;-)

      Maybe we can get the creationists on this bandwagon!

      Kidding aside, anyone know if that sort of thing is even possible?
      • by blincoln (592401)
        I wonder if there is any evidence that a viral infection can have significant impact on the host's DNA.

        I've seen a plant which was infected with a (naturally-occurring) virus which caused it to grow buds all over the tops of its leaves instead of just on its branches, so I would imagine the answer is "yes".
        • by mattkime (8466)
          >>I've seen a plant which was infected with a (naturally-occurring) virus which caused it to grow buds all over the tops of its leaves instead of just on its branches, so I would imagine the answer is "yes".

          that doesn't necessitate that the dna has changed, only that cells are differentiating oddly. pretty much all the cells in your body have the same dna although they perform very different functions.
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      Upon Reading TFA (and with enough biochem in my brain to grok the concepts) I had this thought:

      What if *all* DNA originated as fragments of such viruses??

      [Side thought: This would mean that *all* of the remainder of the organism is just a glorified protein coat, a la a virus' protein coat.]

      Extended thought: mutations that generate new species tend to come in clumps. What if these clumps of mutations are merely the side effect of assimilating a new virus?? this might also account for mass die-offs, when assi
    • Although it's an interesting idea, I suspect it will turn out that there is a much more familiar reason for the start and end of the Cambrian Explosion: a new scripting language followed by code bloat.

      Personally I tend to lean to the idea what the Cambrian explosion rose from was a new mutation that allowed body segmentation/specialization to be effectively encoded, leading to specialization to exploit a multitude of ecological niches and a huge variety of possible paths in the evolution of predator/prey

  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:58PM (#21627437)
    that have emergence of HERVs at the core of their plotlines are Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children, by Greg Bear. Good reads, both.
  • Next up: (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lost Penguin (636359) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:59PM (#21627445) Homepage
    Umbrella Corporation unavailable for comment.
  • by RichPowers (998637) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:08PM (#21627485)
    If it was never alive in the first place?

    Scientists still debate [wikipedia.org] if viruses meet the definition of life as we know it. I'm certainly not qualified to render an opinion on the matter; I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

    Here's a PDF of a SciAm article about this very debate [uvm.edu], written by the Director of Virus Research at UC Irvine.
    • Scientists still debate if viruses meet the definition of life as we know it. I'm certainly not qualified to render an opinion on the matter; I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

      At C2.com we've debated long and hard about a definition of "life". I favor a multi-factor approach. If enough factors score high, then it's "life". The factors include consume energy, reproduce, metabolize, capable of self-repair, and subject to natural
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      I just think it's fascinating how viruses occupy this gray area between our definitions of living and non-living.

      Life or living is just a word, not reality. If a virus is alive or not alive is about as interesting a question as asking if submarines swim or not.
      • by belg4mit (152620)
        The intent of your analogy is good, but the example is poor. I believe the canonical choice is whether planes fly.
        Submarines most definitely do not swim by any standard definition of the word, but planes may or may not for various
        definitions of fly. That is to say, planes (or helicopters) are more like Arthur Dent's perpetual falling than a bird.
    • Once we figure out if a virus is a live, we can start to think about prions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion [wikipedia.org]
  • This article, and the many creative postulations by the /. comunity really would make for a good book, or movie. Kind of a cool concept really.
  • This article is probably the best to hit /. in months. This article was an excellent read. I can only hope there will be more articles like this, and not another review of some craptastic PS3/360/wii game. Real news!!
    • ERVs are one of the very few things that I've never seen Creationists come up with an answer for, beyond denying that there is such a thing as ERVs, of course. That's why fixing ERVs taken from a genome and reactivating is so important to showing what a lying pack of morons Creationists are.
    • Yes, I'd second that.

      It must be the million monkeys idea. The scary part is that TFA had autolinks to Reddit and Digg.

      Sigh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bob19794 (1122211) *
      There is a book out this year that seems related to this discussion, called Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem, a medical student with PhD.'s in neurogenetics and evolutionary biology. He writes this book in a conversational style fairly understandable for general audiences. I recall his describing endogenous retroviruses in the human genome and reverse transcriptase as a mechanism. His main argument seems to be that a number of hereditary diseases like sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and hemachromatosi

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