BREAKING NEWS: New Research By MIT And NCI Provides Further Evidence Of Controversial Claims That SARS-Cov-2 Genes Can Integrate With Human DNA!
BREAKING NEWS: Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Cambridge, National Cancer Institute-Maryland and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research-Cambridge, have in a new study found further evidence supporting the controversial claims that the SARS-CoV-2 genes
is able to integrate into the Human Host DNA.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
When Thailand Medical News covered an initial study done in December 2020 by researchers from Harvard and MIT, a number of ignorant researchers worldwide dismissed the study as being not credible and even as fake. https://www.thailandmedical.news/news/covid-19-news-harvard-and-mit-study-alarmingly-shows-that-sars-cov-2-rna-integrates-into-human-genome-with-varying-implications
The study team consisting of prominent scientists has doubled down on its controversial hypothesis that genetic bits of the pandemic coronavirus can integrate into our chromosomes and stick around long after the infection is over.
Interestingly the Viral gene insertions could explain the rare finding that people can recover from COVID-19 but then test positive for SARS-CoV-2 again months later.
Leading stem cell biologist Dr udolf Jaenisch and gene regulation specialist Dr Richard Young of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the work, triggered a Twitter storm in December 2020, when their team first presented the idea in a preprint on.
Both of them along with their research colleagues emphasized that viral integration did not mean people who recovered from COVID-19 remain infectious.
However ignorant critics charged them with stoking unfounded fears that COVID-19 vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) might somehow alter human DNA.
These so called ‘experts’ cum critics also presented a brace of scientific criticisms, some of which the team addresses in the new study findings.
Dr Jaenisch told Thailand Medical News, “We now have unambiguous evidence that coronavirus sequences can integrate into the human genome.”
The SARS-CoV-2 has genes composed of RNA, and Jaenisch, Young, and co-authors contend that on rare occasions an enzyme in human cells may copy the viral sequences into DNA and slip them into our chromosomes.
Dr Zhang, Dr Jaenisch and colleagues then examined the DNA flanking the small viral sequences for clues to the mechanism by which they got there. In these surrounding sequences, the researchers found the hallmark of a genetic feature called a retrotransposon.
Sometimes called "jumping genes," transposons are sections of DNA that can move from one region of the genome to another. They are often activated to "jump" in conditions of high stress or during cancer or aging, and are powe
rful agents of genetic change.
One common transposon in the human genome is called the LINE1 retrotransposon, which is made up of a powerhouse combination of DNA-cutting machinery and reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that creates DNA molecules from an RNA template (like the RNA of SARS-CoV-2).
The cellular enzyme, reverse transcriptase, is encoded by LINE-1 elements, sequences that litter 17% of the human genome and represent artifacts of ancient infections by retroviruses. In their original preprint, the researchers presented test tube evidence that when human cells spiked with extra LINE-1 elements were infected with the coronavirus, DNA versions of SARS-CoV-2’s sequences nestled into the cells’ chromosomes.
Numerous genomic and cell biologists who specialize in LINE-1 elements and other “retrotransposons” thought the data were too thin to support the claim.
An ex-critic from Cornell University, Dr Cedric Feschotte, who studies endogenous retrovirus chunks in the human genome regrets, “If I would have had this data, I would have not submitted to any publication at that point.”
Many like him had said when the first study came out that they expected higher quality work coming from scientists of the caliber of Dr Jaenisch and Dr Young.
In two subsequent studies, both posted on bioRxiv, critics presented evidence that the supposed chimeras of human and viral DNA traces are routinely created by the very technique the group used to scan for them in chromosomes.
As one report concluded, the human-virus sequences “are more likely to be a methodological product, [sic] than the result of genuine reverse transcription, integration and expression.”
Dr Jaenisch, Dr Young, and colleagues in this news study acknowledge that the technique they used accidentally creates human-viral chimeras. “I think it’s a valid point,” Dr Jaenisch says.
He adds that when they first submitted the paper to a journal, they knew it needed stronger data, which they hoped to add during the review process. But the journal, like many, requires authors to immediately post all COVID-19 results to a preprint server. “I probably should have said screw you, I won’t put it on bioRxiv. It was a misjudgment,” Dr Jaenisch says.
The study team in this new paper provides evidence that artifacts alone can’t explain the detected levels of virus-human chimeric DNA.
The researchers also show that portions of LINE-1 elements flank the integrated viral genetic sequence, further supporting their hypothesis. And they have collaborated with one of the original skeptics, Dr Stephen Hughes of the National Cancer Institute, who suggested an experiment to clarify whether the integration was real or noise, based on the orientation of the integrated viral sequences relative to the human ones.
The study results support the original hypothesis, says Hughes, a co-author of the new paper. “That analysis has turned out to be important,” he says.
“Significantly the integration data in cell culture is much more convincing than what was presented in the preprint, but it’s still not totally clean,” says Dr Feschotte, who now calls Dr Jaenisch’s and Dr Young’s hypothesis “plausible.” (SARS-CoV-2, he notes, can also persist in a person for months without integrating its genes.)
However the real question is whether the cell culture data have any relevance to human health or diagnostics. “In the absence of evidence of integration in patients, the most I can take away from these data is that it is possible to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA retroposition events in infected cell lines where L1 is overexpressed.”
Dr Feschotte added, “The clinical or biological significance of these observations, if any, is a matter of pure speculation at this point.”
Dr Jaenisch’s and Dr Young’s team do report hints of SARS-CoV-2 integration in tissue from living and autopsied COVID-19 patients.
Importantly, the study team found high levels of a type of RNA that is only produced by integrated viral DNA as the cell reads its sequence to make proteins. But, Young acknowledges, “We do not have direct evidence for that yet.”
Dr Harmit Malik, a specialist in ancient viruses in the human genome at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, says it’s a “legitimate question” to ask why individuals who should have cleared the virus sometimes have positive polymerase chain Reaction tests for its sequences. But he also remains unconvinced that the explanation is integrated virus.
“Under normal circumstances, there is so little reverse transcription machinery available” in human cells, Dr Malik says.
Interestingly the controversy has grown decidedly more civil since December. Both Dr Young and Dr Jaenisch say they received more intense criticism for their preprint than any studies in their careers, in part because some researchers worried it played into the hands of vaccine skeptics spreading false claims about the newly authorized mRNA vaccines.
“If there ever was a preprint that should be deleted, it is this one! It was irresponsible to even put it up as a preprint, considering the complete lack of relevant evidence. This is now being used by some to spread doubts about the new vaccines,” Dr Marie-Louise Hammarskjöld, a microbiologist at the University of Virginia, posted in a comment on bioRxiv at the time.
However Dr Marie now kept quiet when the new evidence was published.
The study findings does have huge implications for the mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines by both Pfizer and Moderna.
The study findings also has massive implications with regards to long term health effects and conditions ie LONG COVID and also other possible scenarios concerning cancer etc.
Thailand Medical News will be providing more updates on studies already ongoing with regards to the mRNA vaccines and their effects on the human genome and also studies on LONG COVID.
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