As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Using rooster testes to learn how the body fights viruses

Date: April 27, 2017
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center

Our bodies are constantly under siege by foreign invaders; viruses, bacteria and parasites that want to infiltrate our cells. A new study in the journal eLife sheds light on how germ cells -- sperm and egg -- protect themselves from these attackers so that they can pass accurate genetic information to the next generation.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology: From Genome to Therapeutics examined the role of piRNA in safeguarding the integrity of the genetic information in germ cells. It's known that piRNA -- a type of ribonucleic acid (RNA) that's found most readily in the testes and ovaries -- shields germ cells by silencing the genetic sequences of viral intruders. It's also known that defects or mutations in piRNA lead to infertility in humans and other animals. What's not known is how piRNAs are generated in the first place.

A team led by Xin Li, Ph.D., assistant professor in the departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Urology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, analyzed rooster testes to find out.

Chickens acquire and harbor a wide variety of viruses. When a virus infects a host, like a chicken, it does everything it can to survive. One method of survival is inserting its genetic material into the chicken's genome. Over generations, the inserted virus accumulates mutations and eventually becomes harmless to the animal, but it's still a part of the chicken's genetic material.

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