Thursday, October 29, 2015

700-year-old Reindeer Poop Brings About Regeneration of Ancient Viruses

Ancient, cryogenically-preserved virus remnants were discovered in 700-year-old caribou feces found in an ice patch in the Yukon and Northern Territories in Canada. The low-density virus remnants were found to be degraded, but, through a study led by the University of California, San Francisco, the virus is being "resurrected" by a procedure known as "viral particle associated nucleic acid enrichment". Through their study, the research team was able to recreate a full coding of DNA sequence and and a partial RNA sequence. Furthermore, the team displayed the viruses' ability to reproduce when injected into a living plant. The regenerated viruses gave the team major evidence as to how modern viruses evolved from their viral ancestors. The newest question that critics have risen is whether global warming will bring about the emergence of ancient viruses that were cryogenically preserved for decades. Although the re-warming of other ancient virus DNA is a possibility, it is highly unlikely that any of the viruses would not be degraded enough to infect living species prior to genetic manipulation.
I think it is amazing how far science has advanced. Because of genetics, we are able to "resurrect" ancient viruses and learn more about the evolution of viral species. It is a bit of a scary concept to imagine ancient viruses returning to the current ecosystem. The ability of the virus to infect the plant also raises the question of whether the reindeer actually was infected from eating the plant, meaning that the virus could have been in a symbiotic relationship. Hopefully this type of genetics is well-maintained, controlled, and isolated to keep the public safe from possible unknown harms.

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