The discovery of a universal panacea for cancer has always been a fundamental goal of 21st century doctors. According to a study conducted within the walls of the Francis Crick Institute, DNA particles of ancient viruses can help the immune system to successfully identify and even destroy neoplasms. In this case, in what way can another breakthrough in medicine occur?
Sleeping viruses can help fight cancer
Genome Research, a popular scientific journal, claims that human DNA fragments contain traces of the so-called “endogenous retroviruses,” which at one time brought a lot of trouble to our distant ancestors. For millions of years, our ancestors have been carriers of countless different viruses, which has led to the fact that the information about them in the DNA of modern man now far exceeds the amount of information even about the person himself.
It is known that approximately 8 percent of the entire human genome consists only of viral DNA, while all known human genes make up only 1-2 percent.
Currently, viral DNA is in a dormant state due to the fact that the human body has constantly undergone evolutionary changes throughout its existence, gradually increasing its resistance to various types of viruses.
However, when a cell turns into a cancerous cell, some of its suppression mechanisms may fail by activating ancient viral DNA.
What are genes?
According to the generally accepted opinion, genes are fragments of DNA that contain complete instructions for the production of proteins that perform most of the most important functions in a cell or in the body as a whole. Similar instructions are translated into RNA molecules before receiving proteins.
At the same time, DNA located outside the gene can influence the transcription process, which some endogenous retroviruses use.
In order to fully explore the ways in which endogenous retroviruses interact with transcription, a team of scientists studied samples of patients suffering from 31 different types of cancer, using a special technology called “RNASeq” that can read even short, seemingly random, RNA fragments.
Focusing mainly on the study of transcripts characteristic of melanoma, the researchers applied a material decoding algorithm to make it visible to the human immune system. As a result of the experiment, the researchers were able to detect 14 transcripts of potential candidates located in 8 different areas of the human genome, capable of creating unique cancer antigens . Later, researchers were able to narrow their number, leaving only nine unique peptides that can easily be detected by the immune system.
If so, then the study may form the basis of future progressive cancer treatments, which will include a kind of vaccination of the human immune system in order to recognize and successfully attack cancer cells.