Bizarre obelisk-shaped RNA fragments discovered in human intestine by Stanford scientists | The Gateway Expert

Scientists at Stanford University have discovered a new ‘virus-like entity’ that is shaped like obelisks.’

Science Magazine reported that a group of scientists from Stanford University have unearthed obelisk-shaped virus-like entities residing in the human intestine and mouth.

According to the Stanford team, “obelisks” have genomes made up of loops of RNA, and sequences belonging to them have been discovered around the world.

Gizmodo reported that scientists discovered nearly 30,000 of these special sequences “by analyzing databases that classified the active genes of gut and mouth microbes, using an algorithm to search for unknown genetic sequences that could represent independent viroid-like RNA loops.” .

By science:

As biologists collect and analyze vast quantities of genetic sequences from plants, animals, and microbes, they continue to encounter surprises, including some that may challenge the very definition of life. The latest, reported this week in a preprint, is a new type of virus-like entity that inhabits bacteria that live in the human mouth and gut. These “obelisks,” as the Stanford University team that found them calls them, have genomes apparently composed of loops of RNA, and sequences belonging to them have been found all over the world.

Other scientists are excited about the obelisks’ debut. “It’s crazy,” says Mark Peifer, a cellular and developmental biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The more we look, the more crazy things we see.”

It’s not yet known whether obelisks have any effects on human health, says Matthew Sullivan, an integrative biologist at Ohio State University, but they could alter the genetic activity of their bacterial hosts, which in turn could affect human genes.

Most people know RNA, or ribonucleic acid, as DNA’s alter ego: It carries protein-making recipes encoded in a DNA-based gene to molecular “kitchens” outside the cell nucleus that put together the amino acids of a protein. But more than 200 viruses, including those that cause influenza, Ebola and COVID-19, bypass DNA, having genomes composed only of RNA. Their genomes include sequences that code for the proteins that make up the viral envelope and ribozymes, enzymes that allow the virus to copy its original RNA once inside a cell.

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