The extraordinary role of viruses in evolution and how this is revolutionising biology and medicine.
Darwin's theory of evolution remains central to biological science and medicine. His explanation of the role of natural selection in driving the evolution of life on earth depended on steady variation of living things over time – but he was unable to explain how this variation occurred. In the 150 years since publication of the Origin of Species, we have discovered three main sources for this variation – mutation, hybridisation and epigenetics. Then on Sunday, 12th February, 2001 the evidence for perhaps the most extraordinary cause of variation was simultaneously released by two organisations – the code for the entire human genome. Not only was the human genome unbelievably simple (it is only ten times more complicated than a bacteria), but embedded in the code were large fragments that were derived from viruses – fragments that were vital to evolution of all organisms and the evidence for a fourth and vital source of variation – viruses.
Virolution was the subject of a feature article in New Scientist. Translated into Russian, French, German and Japanese, this book has become a hot topic for discussion among scientists and thinkers in recent years. It offers a very new interpretation of our human evolution - and extrapolates to new avenues of approach to fight important diseases, such as cancer and MS.
In early 2014 Dr Ryan has co-authored a relevant new paper with Swedish and Chinese scientists working on the Human Proteome project. More details about this paper and other developments will follow in his articles and blogs. So popular is the topic he has been commissioned to give a plenary lecture followed by planning and research advice to PhD students in biology and evolutionary biology at the annual European Society for Evolutionary Biology annual meeting for PhD students in Belgium in September 2014.
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