“Junk DNA” From Our Bodies Could Be Far More Important Than Scientists Thought

“Junk DNA” From Our Bodies Could Be Far More Important Than Scientists Thought
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The human DNA is more complex than anybody could ever imagine. Each individual’s DNA is unique, although all DNA is composed of the same molecules that are based on nitrogen.

ScienceAlert.com brings the incredible news that the so-called “junk DNA” from our bodies has some important purposes for mammals. “Junk DNA” refers to huge portions made up of non-coding genes.

“Junk DNA” has a potential purpose in the genomes of marsupials

Scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia are the ones coming with the shocking new claim. It seems that some of the “junk” sequences from our DNA are pieces of viruses left from an infection within a distant ancestor. Viruses can leave behind pieces of themselves in the DNA of the individual they infect. Therefore, the virus can be passed to the offspring.

Credit: Pixabay.com, Holger Detje
Credit: Pixabay.com, Holger Detje

The researchers involved had analyzed genomes belonging to 13 species of marsupials. The Bornaviridae, Parvoviridae, and the Filoviridae endogenous viral elements (EVE) were found.

Emma Harding, a paleovirologist, declared as quoted by newsroom.unsw.edu.au:

These viral fragments have been retained for a reason,

Over millions of years of evolution, we would expect all DNA to change, however, these fossils are preserved and kept intact.

Harding also added, as cited by the same source:

One of the EVEs I found was from the Bornaviridae family of viruses, which first entered the animals’ DNA during the time of the dinosaurs when the South American and Australian land masses were still joined together.

Endogenous viral elements can be entire viral genomes, meaning proviruses, or just fragments of viral genomes. EVEs arise when a viral DNA sequence gets integrated into the genome of a germ cell that produces a viable organism.

The new research was published in Virus Evolution.


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Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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