French researchers have resurrected the "Phoenix virus," a "fossil virus" that lay dormant in the human genome. The retrovirus infected our ancestors millions of years ago, and is apparently still infectious in its new revivified form.
A team led by Thierry Heidmann at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, near Paris, decided to try to awaken the ancestor of an entire family of HERVs called HERV-K(HML2). To "correct" for mutations, the researchers took dozens of known HERV-K(HML2) sequences and aligned them to create a so-called "consensus" sequence. Then they converted this information into a complete viral genome.
The researchers showed that the newly crated virus could infect a variety of human cell lines and replicate. But its infectivity was extremely low, perhaps because human cells have evolved resistance against such viral invaders.
(via William Gibson
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