Genetics

Dear ladies, you have to blame it on a virus

The news item referring to finding of genetic code of 19 viruses in human DNA coming within couple of weeks of Women’s Day tempts me to make an interesting connection, as it will tell you dear ladies that it is not the men, but a virus that must blamed for a lot of your problems!

Life on Earth fools us by appearing extremely diverse, but once we look beyond the bodily manifestation, all self-replicating beings are constructed using data strings that scientists call genome.

Interestingly, while human genome has about 3 billion base-pairs, a single cell creature like amoeba dubia boasts a genome with 670 billion base-pairs! This anomalous looking situation is actually an indicator of the fact that a lot of data stored in the genome is junk with no real use. So, where does this junk come from?

One shocking truth we have discovered lately is that traditional ideas of survival-of-the-fittest brand of evolution or mutation are not the only agents of change. Genes, being strings of data, are easily corruptible and subjected to cut-pasting just like a text file you would make on your computer. Viruses, being small data strings, have used this quality of genome to their advantage and have been adding themselves to genomes of hosts they infect. Over the 4.3 billion year long journey of life, this process has resulted into adding many strings of viral data in all genomes, some of which can be seen as junk DNA.

 Interestingly, the viral data that gets added to genome is not always useless. Sometimes, this addition provides an ability to synthesize a new protein that adds to the skill-set of the genome. And one such addition is, probably, the root cause of most troubles that modern human female faces.

If we look for the single most important issue connected with being a woman it is undoubtedly pregnancy. Bearing a child is a game-changing event in the life of a woman, and that is what virus has brought into the lives of females of the mammal clade.

The transition from reptile to mammal is signified by shifting procreation from laying of eggs (external) to keeping them inside the womb (internal). Though it looks like a simple transition, it required solving one big problem.

As each child is a constructed by mixing DNA of both parents, it is actually a genetically different alien expected to survive inside the mother’s body. As no immune system worth its antibodies would take kindly to such a foreign tissue residing inside the body; without suppressing mother’s immune system, shifting from egg-laying to womb-pregnancy would not have been possible. And this miracle has probably occurred because of a virus code entering into a reptile’s genome.

Viruses are extremely good at suppressing immune systems of their hosts, and it is insertion of a viral code that probably provided necessary technology of retaining fertilized egg within the body which allowed mammals to evolve from reptiles.

As mammals benefited hugely from this change, the trait consolidated and today a human female is forced to retain the child within her body for nine months, a period that takes away her freedom, destroys her career and generally makes her wonder why she alone should go through this.

Science is already trying to undo what virus has done by looking for ways of freeing human females from the burden of bearing the child. But, till it is achieved by science, God has provided a solution that fits Her scheme of things, and that is, being mother is closest one can be to being Her, making it a price worth paying.

DNA: 3/4/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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