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Scientists Revive a Giant 30,000 Year Old Virus From Ice 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-saw-this-movie dept.
bmahersciwriter writes "It might be terrifying if we were amoebae. Instead, it's just fascinating. The virus, found in a hunk of Siberian ice, is huge, but also loosely packaged, which is strange says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie: 'We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria]. We don't understand anything anymore!'"
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Scientists Revive a Giant 30,000 Year Old Virus From Ice

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  • Welp (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @06:37PM (#46391347)
    This virus will be our undoing. The end is nigh!
    • by GloomE (695185)
      Don't be ridiculous. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Humanity is like a big baby left unsupervised, licking, poking, touching everything, because it can. Sooner or later, the fork ends up in the toaster or it drinks the dish washing liquid.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          There would be no toaster or washing up liquid if Humanity was not like this...

        • by flyneye (84093)

          I dunno about humanity, but the scientists obsessed with this is headed toward a socket with a butterknife. Will we have anothe contestant for the Darwins?
          Scientist revives bacteria that kills him could be a winner this year.

          • by NikeHerc (694644)
            Scientist revives bacteria that kills him could be a winner this year.

            If memory serves, one of the people who helped resurrect the Spanish flu died, sadly, as a result.
          • by Enfixed (2423494)
            What kind of butter knife are you using that A) fits into the socket and B) has an extra prong to complete the circuit? Although, now that I think about it perhaps your analogy is correct in the sense that the virus is essentially harmless...
            • by flyneye (84093)

              Standard butterknife, go for the bigger opening. Circuit is complete @ ground where your knees/feet are on the floor.
              Give it a try! Let us know how you come out.
              Its SCIENTERRIFIC!

          • by i.kazmi (977642)
            oooh ooooh like Mary Curie you mean???? errrmmm didn't she win a Nobel prize, twice? once for physics and then for chemistry?
            • by flyneye (84093)

              And a posthumous Darwin for lack of good sense in matters of safety.

              • Define good sense in matters of safety keeping in mind these facts: 1. That certain kinds of matter emit radiation on their own accord was discovered in 1896. 2. The election was discovered in 1897. 3. The term radioactive was coined by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. 4. In 1932, the FDA started a crackdown insisting on proof of the safety and effectiveness of radioactive health products. 5. Hindsight. 6. The GAIAE (General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments) has issued a fatwa, (an official Isla
                • by flyneye (84093)

                  Good damn thing they werent inventing rocket fuel or theyd have been barbequed on the spot.
                  A part of good sense is the ability to at least attempt precaution when dealing with the unknown. Well call it survival instinct. Those without it are on their way out before they can breed further members of the species with poor traits. Good sense isnt necessarily indicative of high intelligence and visa versa, but isnt exclusive of it either. We can call it foresight.
                  As for your attempt to degrade Islam in order to

                  • by i.kazmi (977642)

                    From thinking that the atom was indivisible to actually splitting atoms within a span of some 40 years, all the people involved in the pioneering work were idiots of the first magnitude. Oh and Pierre (Nobel laureate) and Marie Curie (twice a Nobel laureate) did breed, their daughter Irène Joliot-Curie was awarded (shared with her husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie) the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for the discovery of artificial radioactivity but clearly, the entire family was a bunch of hillbillies b

                    • by flyneye (84093)

                      Yes, I see you are a fanboy and even pretending to be Muslim for added drama.
                      Perhaps you will win a Nobel someday, If Obama can get one, I expect they will be dispensed from slot machines soon.
                      It should provide some comfort that your misplaced emphasis could show others all your thoughts are only memories of what you have been told.
                      Your regurgitation of mantra is as convincing as regurgitation on the ground.
                      Go practice on your mama or your professor, THEN, come back with something besides This is the educat

                    • by i.kazmi (977642)

                      Yes, I see you are a fanboy and even pretending to be Muslim for added drama.

                      Fanboy of what exactly?
                      Kazmis are a sub-branch of the Syeds, people who can trace their ancestry directly to Ali and Fatima (the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam and the daughter of the Prophet of Islam), so pretending indeed.

                      Perhaps you will win a Nobel someday, If Obama can get one, I expect they will be dispensed from slot machines soon.

                      Hopefully some day I'll write an algorithm to rule all other algorithms and win

      • Don't be ridiculous. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

        I appreciate your optimistic. However, I feel that you are on an extreme side because you said "nothing can go wrong"; where as, the OP is on the other side because of "The end is nigh!".

        My concern is not about right now, but it is about what if. Reviving something that has gone for a long time from the world would open up many different events that could be both good and bad because everything has an impact on one another. The impact could be very little and seems to be none, or it could be very signifi

    • by Matheus (586080)

      Zombies.

  • by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Monday March 03, 2014 @06:37PM (#46391353)
    just hope that this bug is not designed to attack large, warm blooded, animals.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      As even the summary stated quite clearly, it's only able to attack amoebae. Mind you, that does adequately describe the reading comprehension skill level of some slashdotters.

      • well the assume anyways - other giant viruses are the same in that they only attack amoebae but this giant virus is also unlike anything they ever tested. The basically set the permafrost in a container and let it go to work. They didn't try other organisms. so their assumptions are partially based on the work of prior giant viruses.

        • I volunteer any member of Congress to go mano a mano with the virus. Friggin bunch of disorganized slime that they are, it might find some valid targets.

  • by dgp (11045) on Monday March 03, 2014 @06:38PM (#46391369) Journal

    Revive a 30,000 year old virus, they said. It'll be fun they said.

  • could possibly go wrong?
  • Beh. You can be the size of a basketball if you plan on infecting these beasties [slashdot.org]

  • I seem to recall something similar happening on X-Files, Stargate, and Fringe. It didn't turn out so well.
  • by zlives (2009072) on Monday March 03, 2014 @06:49PM (#46391517)

    the virus catches you

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Code bloat! Nature finally optimized for the present day.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday March 03, 2014 @06:54PM (#46391583) Journal

    Jean-Michel Claverie: 'We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria].

    I am sure this scientist is going to be perplexed by this too. this [wikipedia.org]. I expect him to say, "I expect the human torso to be kind of roundish in cross section and two hands hanging by the side. But this guy is over compacted. We don't understand any thing anymore."

    • Could be springs don't wind tightly when they're stored at very very cold temps for tens of thousands of years.

      That said, this should not impact the viability of virii.

      They just look bigger.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It's a live, reproducing virus. They know what it looks like when it's fresh.

  • Beautiful, beautiful words from a scientific perspective.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Taken out of context and going to be used by idiots to prop up the god damn false dichotomy.

      • Taken out of context and going to be used by idiots to prop up the god damn false dichotomy.

        If we're lucky, real lucky, the age of this -phage will be used against idiots who prop up the damn false god dichotomy.

      • by narcc (412956)

        Yes, because if we know anything it's that you need to lie to people about science because a few nutters might post nonsense on the internet.

        • by neo8750 (566137)

          because a few nutters might post nonsense on the internet.

          But if its on the internet it must be true!

  • The size could be the result of the process of being packed in ice for long periods of time. Some sort of virus fossilization where the virus dna gains dna from its prehistoric host.
  • lol (Score:5, Funny)

    by hamburger lady (218108) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:13PM (#46391789)

    "We don't understand anything anymore!" says the guy reviving a 30,000 year-old virus. sheesh.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we understand, there are understood understoodables; there are things we understand that we understand. There are understood nonunderstoodables; that is to say, there are things that we now understand we don't understand. But there are also nonunderstood nonunderstoodables – there are things we do not understand we don't understand."

  • The crappy Resident Evil knock-off.
  • Hmm.

    I wonder if it's safe.

  • 30,000 years old? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:39PM (#46392031)
    I'm surprised this thing is very different to modern viruses given that it's *only* 30K years old. I appreciate these things are always evolving, but I would've thought they'd have done most of their evolving in the previous 3-billion years or whatever. So presumably, being big wasn't a problem for a virus until relatively recently?
    • by Mortiss (812218) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:56PM (#46392191)
      Well, these viruses may have found a relatively safe niche in a biosphere, where large genome is not a huge disadvantage and simply stayed that way. These giant viruses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimivirus) seem to have acquired a large number of metabolic genes from their hosts, which in case of human viruses would be very disadvantageous, since in this environment large = easier to detect and eradicate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm surprised this thing is very different to modern viruses given that it's *only* 30K years old. I appreciate these things are always evolving, but I would've thought they'd have done most of their evolving in the previous 3-billion years or whatever. So presumably, being big wasn't a problem for a virus until relatively recently?

      You're displaying your ignorance I'm afraid, and I don't mean that disparagingly. Viruses are short lived and the number of copies that reproduce is huge. That makes (at least some of) them ideal for studying evolution in short time spans. HIV/AIDS is a key one for studying evolution.

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/relevance/IA2HIV.shtml

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:41PM (#46392065)

    ...what could possibly go wrong? Because, that simply can't be asked too many times, right?

    Ugh.

    It will actually turn out that this virus will simultaneously cure cancer and all known diseases in humans. They'll call it the Ponce de Leon infection as it also stops and even reverses the effects of old age, and will result in a sharp drop in mortality rates and a rapid increase in population.

    Eventually, the Earth's population of humans will outstrip its ability to support them.

    Then the real carnage begins.

    • by koan (80826)

      ...what could possibly go wrong?

      I wish someone would have asked that about Google Glass.

    • Captain Kirk already visited such a planet with no disease and no death that had dramatic overpopulation

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

      Mumbai, India has 33,000 people per square km, which makes places with only really high population density like London (8500 people per square km) seem sparsely populated.
    • .... but it will also sterilize 99% of the population . . . Oh, wait, that was Stargate. And Star Trek. And maybe it explains why elves didn't overpopulate Middle-Earth.
  • by Chas (5144) on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:00PM (#46392219) Homepage Journal

    It's possible that this one was warped by its environment.
    Another possibility is that we're looking at a sign of evolution here.

    It's possible that 30,000 years ago, the environment (and carriers) could support the existence of larger, loosely packed viruses.

    Then with the advance of medicine and sanitation (and possibly changes in climate), that behemoths like this simply weren't viable anymore. They were too fragile (or just too obviously large) to withstand the immune responses in healthier, cleaner hosts.

    As such, these oversized viruses died off the same way various megafauna did. Their ecological niche was either stressed (or closed). Thus the only survivors were smaller, more compact variants.

    • There are single celled organisms at the bottom of the ocean, xenophyophores are one example, that are single-cell creatures visible to the human eye --- and in fact larger than a centimeter.

      It should come as no surprise there are giant viruses in more primitive times, more primitive times are alive and well in the ancient creatures that live in the deepest parts of the oceans.
  • Obviously... when you're digging up 30,000 year old virus, right about the same time the Neanderthal disappeared.

    • I'm no biologist, but... don't viruses mutate quickly and unpredictably? And perhaps into a strain that is able to infect mammals?
      • by koan (80826)

        They can, it always makes me nervous when they pull these things out of the ice or attempt to "recreate" them.

  • and humans go and bring it back. This oughtta be good. Lets hope this tinkering with disaster is handled correctly, or shaved, sterilized and destroyed.
  • Supposedly, the Black Death came to Europe from the Crimea and/or further east near China. Look how well that worked out.
    It's interesting that while a lot of super scary viruses originated in sub-Saharan Africa, there are other origin places with radically different environmental conditions.

    • Black Death. Spanish Flu. Popular culture like "Downton Abbey" has revived awareness that pandemics really happen, and these events are in comparatively recent history. Yet it seems that nobody takes it seriously, despite the faster transportation and greater population density we have today. Before worrying about total unknowns, just consider what a Spanish Flu outbreak would look like in NYC or LA or Hong Kong.
  • by DarthVain (724186)

    Just means that modern humans have had 30,000 years for their immune systems to evolve additional defenses.

    Talk to me when you find a virus from 30,000 years in the future, then I'll be scared! :)

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