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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Fresh Doubts About Connection Between Mouse Virus and Human Disease
8 March 2011 6:36 pm
BOSTON—A new finding presented at a conference here last week throws cold water on the impassioned debate about the link between a novel mouse retrovirus and prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome in humans. Yet few believe it will end the controversy, which began in 2006.
In an extensive sleuthing expedition that looked back nearly 20 years, two collaborating research teams contend they have evidence that xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) resulted from the chance recombination of pieces of two mouse viruses in lab experiments and that the connections to human disease are spurious. "That nails it," said retrovirologist Nathaniel Landau of New York University. "Everyone working on this thing has this virus contaminating their stuff. It's been a tremendous waste of time and money."
Vinay Pathak, a retrovirologist who works at the HIV Drug Resistance Program run by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland, presented the new data at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Pathak explained how he became intrigued by a 2009 study that showed how a human prostate cancer cell line was infected with XMRV. He acquired earlier material made to use the cell line—in particular, tumors grown in mice, called xenografts, that were then "passaged" to other mice—and established that the original human tumor could not have harbored XMRV.
More startling still, Pathak's lab found that some of the early samples of xenografts did have a stretch of DNA that was nearly identical to about half of the XMRV genome. A group led by John Coffin, who works at both NCI and Tufts University here, made a similar discovery with different samples of xenografts. When the teams compared notes, they saw that the two sequences perfectly overlapped to form XMRV. "It was an amazing moment, the kind that happens once or twice in a career," says Coffin. "It was like seeing a puzzle come together." As Pathak emphasized in his talk, the DNA sequences in what they dubbed preXMRV-1 and preXMRV-2 are nearly identical to the XMRV sequences reportedly found in humans but suspected to be a lab contaminant by some groups. Retroviruses frequently recombine with each other, which is how the two preXMRV sequences likely became XMRV. Now Coffin is convinced that "it is all contamination."
A longer version of this article will appear in this week's issue of Science.