I’m a biologist studying how selfish genetic elements, such as viruses, have infiltrated our genomes and influenced our evolution. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the labs of Dr. Cedric Feschotte and Dr. Nels Elde at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Some genetic “switches” that control immune responses come from viral DNA

March 2016: With all the bad press on viruses these days, it’s easy to forget that about 8% of our own DNA is viral in origin. These viral pieces of DNA are “fossils” of ancient retroviruses that infected our ancestors over the past 100 million years. Our study, just published in Science, reveals that some of these viral elements have been domesticated to help activate the innate immune response against modern-day viruses. As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, “The opportunity for defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” It seems host-virus evolutionary battles are no exception.

Perspective by Dr. Vincent Lynch.
Media coverage:
University of Utah Press release by Julie Kiefer.
Carl Zimmer, NYTimes
Ed Yong, The Atlantic (see also an animated short: “The Irony of Viruses“)
Jyoti Madhusoodanan, The Scientist
Sarah Zhang, Wired
Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian Magazine
Monique Brouillette, Science News
Katerine Foley, Quartz
Javier Sampedro, El Pais (in Spanish)

University of Utah Scope Radio Ed and Cedric discuss the paper with Julie Kiefer
This Week in Virology #382 Ed and Nels discuss the paper with the TWiV crew
Top of Mind with Julie Rose Ed and Cedric discuss CRISPR and viruses
Also featured on Inquiring MindsScience FridayScience Magazine Podcast