As per new study by researchers, DNA “copies” of viruses that infected our ancestors millions of years ago can aid the immune system to spot and destroy cancer cells. The new research was published in the journal Genome Research and aimed at “endogenous retroviruses,” fragments of DNA of humans that were left behind by viruses that affected our ancestors. More than millions of years, our ancestors were diseased with uncountable viruses and their DNA now makes up more of our genome compared to human genes. Almost 8% of the human genome constitute of retroviral DNA, whereas known genes are just 1–2%. Dr. George Kassiotis—Crick Group Leader, who directed the study—said, “This viral DNA naturally lies dormant, since it is either non-functional or the bodies have changed to suppress it. Nonetheless, when a cell becomes malignant, some of these destruction mechanisms can fail and this old viral DNA can be rebooted.”
He added, “During this study, we looked for viral DNA that is rebooted by cancer and forms products that the immune system can observe. The expectation is that if we can instruct the immune system to recognize these, we can considerably focus on cancer cells.” The genes are fragments of DNA that constitute guidelines to create proteins, which perform significant functions in the body. These guidelines are copied into RNA “messenger” molecules in advance the proteins are formed. Nevertheless, this transcription mechanism can be regulated by DNA outside the gene, counting endogenous retroviruses.
On a related note, researchers developed a modular approach to engineer immune cells. The scientists at Yale University have designed a novel way to competently engineer immune cells, a development which improves the capability to delay cancer and other diseases. The findings of the new study were published in the journal Nature Methods. Many innovative life-saving treatments are dependent on reconfiguring human immune cells to serve as living drugs in the body.