You know, science fiction just can't compare with real science. A terrible infection is devastating the earth. Scientists decide that the answer to the infection must lie somewhere amongst the "junk" DNA between genes on our genome. So, they look. They reasoned that if it is something that has hung around for a long time, it is something that has been useful repeatedly but not needed all the time and therefore put into the attic. They screen these preserved "junk" genes and find one that stops HIV AIDS.

Wise.

Darwin's Radio: Prehistoric Gene Reawakens to Battle HIV -A Galaxy Classic

'The next great war will start inside us. 'In the next stage of evolution, mankind is history'.

Greg Bear, Darwin's Radio

About 95% of the human genome has once been designated as "junk" DNA. While much of this sequence may be an evolutionary artifact that serves no present-day purpose, some junk DNA may function in ways that are not currently understood. The conservation of some junk DNA over many millions of years of evolution may imply an essential function that has been "turned off." Now scientists say there's a junk gene that fights HIV. And they've discovered how to turn it back on.


What these scientists have done could give us the first bulletproof HIV vaccine. They have re-awakened the human genome's latent potential to make us all into HIV-resistant creatures; they published their ground-breaking research in PLoS Biology.

A group of scientists led by Nitya Venkataraman and Alexander Colewhether wanted to try a new approach to fighting HIV - one that worked with the body's own immune system. They knew Old World monkeys had a built-in immunity to HIV: a protein called retrocyclin, which can prevent HIV from entering cell walls and starting an infection. So they began poring over the human genome, looking to see if humans had a latent gene that could manufacture retrocyclin too. It turned out that we did, but a "nonsense mutation" in the gene had turned it off at some point in our evolutionary history.

Nonsense mutations are caused when random DNA code shows up in the middle of a gene, preventing it from beginning the process of manufacturing proteins in the cell. Venkataraman and her team decided to investigate this gene further, doing a series of tests to see if the retrocyclin it produced would keep HIV out of human cells. It did.

At last, they knew that if they could just figure out a way to reawaken the "junk" gene that creates retrocyclin in humans, they might be able to stop HIV infections. The researchers just needed to figure out a way to remove that nonsense mutation and get the target gene to start manufacturing retrocyclin again.

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