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The Science of Paleovirology
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It sounds like a sci-fi nightmare: scientists bring back to life ancient deadly viruses that once wiped out vast numbers of the human race for research purposes only, of course. And where do they go to find those extinct diseases? Deep within our own genome.

Long ago, some of the viruses that didn’t kill us got absorbed into our genes and sit there to this day. Most are silent fossils. But some work with our bodies to make us better, stronger.

It’s wild stuff. And it’s not science fiction.

This hour, On Point: The new science of paleovirology and the long evolutionary embrace of man and virus.

Guests:

Michael Specter, staff writer for the New Yorker. His story in this week’s issue is titled “Darwin’s Surprize.”

John Coffin, Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University.

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Apr 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin has urged an end to the blockade of Moldova’s separatist province of Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester, located in eastern part of Moldova on border with Ukraine, has run its own affairs without international recognition since a 1992 war. Russian troops are stationed there.  (AP)

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Apr 18, 2014
This undated photo provided by NASA on April 2, 2014 shows Saturn's moon Enceladus. The "tiger stripes" are long fractures from which water vapor jets are emitted. Scientists have uncovered a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of the moon, they announced Thursday, April 3, 2014. Italian and American researchers made the discovery using Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft still exploring Saturn and its rings 17 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral. (AP)

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Apr 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin has urged an end to the blockade of Moldova’s separatist province of Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester, located in eastern part of Moldova on border with Ukraine, has run its own affairs without international recognition since a 1992 war. Russian troops are stationed there.  (AP)

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