Endogenous retroviruses are a kind of "fossilized" virus for millions of years in our genome. These viral DNA sequences are known as HERV for its acronym in English (human endogenous retrovirus) and make up up to 8% of our genome .
But what are these viruses doing there?
Several research groups have concluded that endogenous retroviruses can secrete proteins and thus potentially affect aspects such as the expression of other genes or the progression of certain diseases. And although they remain inactive throughout life, certain genetic stimuli and mutations can reactivate them .
Even recently a research team from the Swedish University of Lund, in a study published this year in the journal Cell Reports , discovered that endogenous retroviruses can affect the expression of an individual’s genes . And since the DNA of endogenous retroviruses is located in different parts of the genome of each person, this "silencing" mechanism would affect different individuals differently.
However, this area of research is still little explored and HERVs could have influences still unknown on us.