Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neanderthal viruses found in modern humans

Date:
November 19, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Ancient viruses from Neanderthals have been found in modern human DNA. Researchers compared genetic data from fossils of Neanderthals and another group of ancient human ancestors called Denisovans to data from modern-day cancer patients. They found evidence of Neanderthal and Denisovan viruses in the modern human DNA, suggesting that the viruses originated in our common ancestors more than half a million years ago.

Scanning electron micrograph showing human immunodeficiency virus (spherical) on human lymphocytes. Researchers hope to further investigate ancient endogenous retroviruses, belonging to the HML2 family of viruses, for possible links with cancer and HIV.
Credit: CDC/C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus

Ancient viruses from Neanderthals have been found in modern human DNA by researchers at Oxford University and Plymouth University.

The researchers compared genetic data from fossils of Neanderthals and another group of ancient human ancestors called Denisovans to data from modern-day cancer patients. They found evidence of Neanderthal and Denisovan viruses in the modern human DNA, suggesting that the viruses originated in our common ancestors more than half a million years ago.

This latest finding, reported in Current Biology, will enable scientists to further investigate possible links between ancient viruses and modern diseases including HIV and cancer, and was supported by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council (MRC).

Around 8% of human DNA is made up of 'endogenous retroviruses' (ERVs), DNA sequences from viruses which pass from generation to generation. This is part of the 90% of our DNA with no known function, sometimes called 'junk' DNA.

'I wouldn't write it off as "junk" just because we don't know what it does yet,' said Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis, an MRC Fellow at Oxford University's Department of Zoology. 'Under certain circumstances, two "junk" viruses can combine to cause disease -- we've seen this many times in animals already. ERVs have been shown to cause cancer when activated by bacteria in mice with weakened immune systems.'

Dr Gkikas and colleagues are now looking to further investigate these ancient viruses, belonging to the HML2 family of viruses, for possible links with cancer and HIV.

'How HIV patients respond to HML2 is related to how fast a patient will progress to AIDS, so there is clearly a connection there,' said Dr Magiorkinis, co-author of the latest study. 'HIV patients are also at much higher risk of developing cancer, for reasons that are poorly-understood. It is possible that some of the risk factors are genetic, and may be shared with HML2. They also become reactivated in cancer and HIV infection, so might prove useful as a therapy target in the future.'

The team are now investigating whether these ancient viruses affect a person's risk of developing diseases such as cancer. Combining evolutionary theory and population genetics with cutting-edge genetic sequencing technology, they will test if these viruses are still active or cause disease in modern humans.

'Using modern DNA sequencing of 300 patients, we should be able to see how widespread these viruses are in the modern population. We would expect viruses with no negative effects to have spread throughout most of the modern population, as there would be no evolutionary pressure against it. If we find that these viruses are less common than expected, this may indicate that the viruses have been inactivated by chance or that they increase mortality, for example through increased cancer risk,' said Dr Robert Belshaw, formerly of Oxford University and now a lecturer at Plymouth University, who led the research.

'Last year, this research wouldn't have been possible. There were some huge technological breakthroughs made this summer, and I expect we'll see even greater advances in 2014. Within the next 5 years, we should be able to say for sure whether these ancient viruses play a role in modern human diseases.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emanuele Marchi, Alex Kanapin, Matthew Byott, Gkikas Magiorkinis and Robert Belshaw. Neanderthal and Denisovan retroviruses in modern humans. Current Biology, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.028

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Neanderthal viruses found in modern humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119230442.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, November 19). Neanderthal viruses found in modern humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119230442.htm
University of Oxford. "Neanderthal viruses found in modern humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119230442.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins