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Submission + - Ancient Virus DNA Discovery Could be a Breakthrough in How Diseases are Treated (ibtimes.co.uk)

concertina226 writes: Understanding how retroviruses are passed down through our DNA could be the key to helping researchers re-programme normal cells to become stem cells for treating diseases.

Researchers from Canada and Singapore have discovered that the ancient viruses which entered our ancestors' genomes thousands of years ago have altered the way our cells behave; the material left by dead viruses in our cells is the answer.

1,000 copies of one particular class of retroviruses, known as the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-H, is still in our genome, and while the HERV-H retrovirus DNA is dead and cannot replicate itself, it continues to send out messages telling the embryonic stem cell how to become other cells in the body, and this is what makes the cells pluripotent.

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Ancient Virus DNA Discovery Could be a Breakthrough in How Diseases are Treated

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