Fossil viruses lurking in the human genome linked to depression Fossil viruses lurking in the human genome linked to depression

Fossil viruses lurking in the human genome linked to depression

Fossil viruses lurking in the human genome linked to depression
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A new study has found that some ancient viruses lurking in human DNA may contribute to psychiatric disorders.

Scientists from King's College London have identified 5 "fossil viruses" linked to depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The research team explained that the ancient viruses, called human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), were previously known and viewed as "junk DNA" with no purpose, but may now lead to new treatments for psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Timothy Powell, co-lead author of the study, said: “This study uses a new and powerful approach to evaluate how genetic susceptibility to psychiatric disorders affects the expression of ancient viral sequences found in the modern human genome. Our results suggest that these viral sequences may play a more important role in human brain than originally thought.

The human genome consists of approximately 6 billion individual letters of DNA (about the same number as in other primates such as chimpanzees) distributed among 23 pairs of chromosomes.

To read the genome, scientists first break all the DNA into pieces so that the individual letters in each piece can be read, and they try to put the pieces in the correct order, like piecing together a complex puzzle.

The study analyzed data from large genetic studies that included tens of thousands of people, whether they suffered from mental illness or not.

The team also used information from autopsy brain samples from 800 individuals to explore how DNA variations associated with psychiatric disorders affect the expression of HERVs.

It was shown that some genetic risk variants partially affected the expression of HERV viruses, increasing the risk of schizophrenia and depression.

Dr. Rodrigo Duarte said: “We know that psychiatric disorders have a significant genetic component, with many parts of the genome increasingly contributing to susceptibility. In our study, we were able to investigate parts of the genome corresponding to HERV viruses, which led to the identification of 5 related sequences.” "While it is not yet clear how these retroviruses affect brain cells to cause this increase in risk, our findings suggest that regulating their expression is important for brain function."

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