An ancient virus may be the reason human stem cells can transform

The embryonic stem cells responsible for producing every other type of cell in the human body gained their power from an ancient virus that copied itself into our DNA millions of years ago, according to new research. National Geographic reports that the discovery could lead to more effective stem-cell treatments for diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease, among other ailments.

The new research, published today in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, offers new insights on pluripotency, the ability of stem cells to transform into other types of cell. The study’s authors say their research demonstrates that an ancient virus known as human endogenous retrovirus subfamily H, or HERV-H, plays a key role in pluripotency.


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