Ancient Viruses Reactivated And Cause Neurological Conditions​​

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Ancient viruses, now small traces found in our DNA, could cause certain neurological diseases. Researchers explain how transposable elements or transposons, are extents of DNA that hold within the capacity to drift humans’ genome. Scientists can trace back one kind of transposon, the human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs)​, to ancient retroviruses that implanted themselves into the human genome sometime millions of years back. HERVs ​constitute up to approximately 8 percent of our DNA.

Some HERVs ​have vital functions during specific processes such as embryonic development. Most of the HERVs ​are inactive, but a team of researchers from Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany,​ explain how some HERVs ​can be reactivated and make a mess in our brain and central nervous system. The recent review has been published in Frontiers in Genetics.

Activation of the HERV concludes in an immune response. HERV-W envelope (ENV) RNA and protein exist in increasing levels in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid​ (CFS) of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), but only hardly ever in those without the disease. Numerous triggers can reactivate HERV. One of them is infection with common viruses, for instance, Epstein-Barr virus, and other from the herpes virus family.

Ancient Viruses Reactivated And Cause Neurological Conditions​​

Studies also imply that immune system mediators and environmental factors, such as diet and drugs, can reactivate HERVs, even though there is not much evidence until now. MS is not the only neurological condition where researchers assume the HERV is involved. Several studies have indicated reactivation of HERV-K in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron condition.

When suffering from MS, the immune system attacks myelin, a protective cover that veils many neurons in the central nervous system. Fixing this myelin detriment by allowing the cells in the CNS to remelynate neurons may end up being an effective method to treat MS. In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, ​Patrick Kuery, a professor of neurodegeneration and senior review author​ and his colleagues further investigated the mechanism that connects HERV-W to MS.

The team discovered cells that hold within the HERV-W ENV​ protein close to neurons in brain tissue of MS patients, especially in regions that contained chronic and severe MS lesions. MS is a complex disease, and researchers do not entirely understand the mechanism of HERVs. A HERV-modifying therapeutic may end up a promising treatment for people having MS, but this remains to be seen.


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