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The Discovery of a Virus that Could Create New Genes from the Human Genetic Code

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Various opinions related to the emergence of corona virus from Wuhan, China are indeed often heard in our ears.

Considered a conspiracy theory that was deliberately created, in fact the corona virus has infected nearly 10 million people worldwide.

But in the midst of the turmoil associated with the corona virus (Covid-19), recently came the discovery that the virus can steal the human genetic code that will be able to create new genes.

As reported by Science Daily, Wednesday (6/24/2020), by stealing genetic signals from its host, viruses can multiply themselves by expanding their own genomes.

Interdisciplinary collaborative studies from researchers at the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai in New York, and at the University of Glasgow’s MRC Virus Research Center in the UK will soon be officially published in the journal Cell.

The team of virologists has observed a large group of viruses known as segmented negative-strand RNA viruses (sNSVs).

This virus includes extensive and serious pathogens from humans, pets and plants, including influenza viruses and Lassa viruses which cause Lassa fever.

UFO proteins when viruses multiply

The researchers show, by stealing the genetic code from its host, the virus can produce more proteins that were not previously detected.

A group of viruses is dubbed researchers as UFO proteins (Upstream Frankenstein Open reading frame).

Because, they are coded by bringing together the host and the sequence of the virus. There was no knowledge of the existence of this type of protein before the study was conducted.

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This UFO protein can change the direction of infection and can be exploited for vaccine purposes.

“The capacity of pathogens to overcome their host resistance and build infection is based on the expression of proteins derived from pathogens,” said Ivan Marazzi, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology at Icahn School of Medicine and the corresponding author of the study.

Marazzi added to understand how pathogens invade the host and cause infection, it needs to be clearly understood related to what proteins are encoded by the pathogen.

“How they function, and how they contribute to virulence,” Marazzi said.

Viruses cannot build their own proteins, so they need to give instructions for building proteins from their host cells.

It is known that viruses do this through a process called cap-snatching, in which they will cut off the end of one of the cell’s own protein-coding messages.

Next, extend that sequence with a copy of one of their genes, so this gives a hybrid message to read.

Potential to create new viral genes

For decades, said Marazzi, researchers thought, when the body found a signal to translate the message into protein, he read messages that were only provided by viruses.

“Our work shows that the gene sequence in the host is not silent,” he explained.

The researchers point out that, because viruses make hybrid mRNA hosts with their own genes, viruses (sNSVs) can produce additional messages, the initial codon being passed on from the host.

This makes it possible to translate previously unexpected proteins from a sequence of hybrid host viruses.

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They further showed that these new genes were expressed by influenza viruses and could potentially create a group of other viruses.

These hybrid gene products can be seen by the immune system, and they can modulate virulence.

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