There’s an amazing paper that’s just been published on PLoS biology…
Basically, they studied the genes of Old world monkeys which had been found to be resistant to HIV infection, the resistance is caused by the recently identified theta-defensins (cyclic peptides which prevent viruses entering cells).
They then found theta-defensin genes (89.4% intact!) in human ‘junk’ DNA (genes which over our evolution have become inactive due to a ‘nonsense’ mutation).
Astonishingly, they were able to reactivate the gene using aminoglycosides to ignore the nonsense mutation, and produced functional peptides which are active against HIV (in vitro).
Not only is this a great step towards HIV protection but the techniques could unlock all manner of genetic fuctions that we are currently unaware of.
95% of our DNA is inactive ‘junk’ DNA- that’s a lot of potential.
Perhaps we’ll finally be getting that race of super mutants that sci-fi has so thoroughly prepared us for…