Scientists at Stanford University have found a new sample of life – although for the moment they are based on a preprint -, which they have called “obelisks”, very similar to a virus found in bacteria in the human mouth and intestines.
According to the researchers, These obelisks have composite genomes of RNA loops that have been found around the world. In the words of Mark Peifer, a cell biologist at the University of North Carolina, “it’s crazy,” and he reaffirms that “the more we look, the more crazy things we see.”
Despite this discovery, it’s still too early to know more and it is not known to what extent these obelisks may or may not affect human health, according to the explanation of Matthew Sullivan, a biologist at Ohio University. If confirmed, these obelisks could alter the genetic activity of bacterial hosts. and thereby affect human genes.
How RNA and DNA work
To explain what this discovery can lead to, it is necessary to know what the difference is between RNA and DNA. The first is responsible for transporting protein production “recipes” encoded in a DNA-based gene to molecular “kitchens” outside the cell nucleus that bind the amino acids of a protein.
On the other hand, numerous viruses such as those that cause Ebola or Covid-19 avoid DNA, which causes the genomes that encode the proteins that form the viral envelope and ribozymes, enzymes that allow a virus to copy its original RNA. once inside a cell
According to computational biologist Simon Roux of the DOE Joint Genome Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, this work is “a clearer indication that we are still exploring the frontiers of this viral universe”.
Given this scenario, the question that Roux asks focuses on whether viruses evolved from increasingly complex viroids and obelisks, or if they emerged first. and then they degenerated into these simpler structures.