SC 2017 Semilab: Viruses and the Evolution of Life

by Ioulia Rouzina

In this introductory semilab we'll learn together about the modern view on the evolution of life. Surprisingly, the main driver of evolution appears to be the same nasty little creatures - viruses - that cause us so much health trouble. We'll learn about the genes and the proteins they code for. We'll look into the types of viruses, and understand why they are the nature-optimized machines to transfer genes between the organisms. We'll also discuss why the evolution that involves gene exchange is much more efficient than the evolution through the random point mutations of the genomes. We'll discuss the diseases induced by viruses, and why some of them are so deadly. We'll also find out about the successes in cures of human diseases based on retroviral gene delivery. We'll play a game in which we'll suggest our own ways of how to perform some life functions of the viruses, and then will check how the nature does it.

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