Ancient viruses may be lurking in humans’ DNA after scientists noted a strange protein in pregnant women, according to a September study.
A protein dubbed HEMO has been found in unborn babies, but the gene originally came from a virus which may have infected mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago, according to the study “Roles of Endogenous Retroviruses in Early Life Events,” the New York Times reported.
Viral DNA makes up approximately 8 percent of the human genome — or roughly 100,000 pieces — which scientists believe can impact humans’ health both positively and negatively. The study researched whether these viral genes had an affect on humans’ genetic makeup, specifically with regard to the HEMO protein.
“It’s not an either-or — are these things good or bad? It’s a lot more complicated than that,” said Dr. Aris Katzourakis, a virologist from the University of Oxford, regarding whether the discovery of HEMO protects humans from diseases.
Katzourakis adds that scientists are “barely at the beginning” of research on the HEMO protein.
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