Apr 17, 2024

Startups probe hidden viruses in the ‘dark genome’ to treat disease

Drug hunters are finding that ancient virus-like artifacts in the human genome could offer new avenues to treat neurodegeneration, cancer, autoimmunity and even aging with antibodies, vaccines and antiretroviral agents.

A new wave of therapies is taking aim at virus-like elements spread throughout the human genome. These genomic parasites, which have accumulated over the course of human evolution, are embedded in the vast expanse of DNA sequences that dwell in the spaces between our genes — what scientists call the ‘dark genome’. Although they were largely ignored in the past, growing scientific evidence indicates that these normally dormant elements — including retroviruses, transposons and other repetitive sequences — can reactivate, triggering inflammation, cancer and other disease-related cellular damage.

Publication: Nature Biotechnology

By: Michael Eisenstein

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