Did brain evolution accelerate due to viruses? New study suggests so

Researchers have found that ancient retroviruses may be responsible for the emergence of myelin. This tissue covers nerve fibers, crucial in vertebrate brains.

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[Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay]

A paper published in the prestigious scientific journal “Cell” may overturn our understanding of brain evolution. An international team of scientists discovered that one gene found in both vertebrates and some invertebrates likely originated from viruses.

From viruses to vertebrates: wandering genes

This gene, called a retrotransposon, is essential for myelin production in mammals, amphibians, and fish. Transposons are called “wandering genes.” They are DNA sequences capable of moving within the genome of the same cell through transposition. Barbara McClintock received the Nobel Prize in 1983 for discovering this process. Biologists have long suspected that transposons are ancient viruses integrated into the genomes of modern…