Nav: Home

Viruses are everywhere, maybe even in space

January 18, 2018

Viruses are the most abundant and one of the least understood biological entities on Earth. They might also exist in space, but as of yet scientists have done almost no research into this possibility.

Portland State University biology professor Ken Stedman and colleagues are trying to change this through their article "Astrovirology: Viruses at Large in the Universe," published in the February 2018 issue of the journal Astrobiology. In this call to arms, the authors state that NASA and other space agencies should be looking for viruses in liquid samples from Saturn and Jupiter's moons, develop technology to detect viruses in ancient deposits on Earth and Mars, and determine if Earth viruses could survive in space.

"More than a century has passed since the discovery of the first viruses," said Stedman, who teaches at PSU's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. "Entering the second century of virology, we can finally start focusing beyond our own planet."

Stedman argues that since there are more viruses on Earth -- 10 to 100 times more than any other cellular organism -- the same could be true on other planets and moons. Viruses also appear to be extremely ancient, may have been involved in the origin of life and have probably been involved in major evolutionary transitions on Earth.

"With this paper, we hope to inspire integration of virus research into astrobiology and also point out pressing unanswered questions in astrovirology, particularly regarding the detection of virus biosignatures and whether viruses could be spread extraterrestrially," Stedman said.
-end-
Stedman, co-founder of PSU's Center for Life in Extreme Environments, wrote the article with colleagues Aaron Berliner from the Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space at the UC Berkeley, and Tomohiro Moichizuki from the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Stedman has funding from NASA for virus evolution research. He was previously funded by NASA to work on virus preservation. These results led to him founding a vaccine-stabilization company based on NASA-funded research.

Portland State University

Related Viruses Articles:

Killing flu viruses with help from a frog
Frog mucus is loaded with molecules that kill bacteria and viruses, and researchers are beginning to investigate it as a potential source for new anti-microbial drugs.
Giant viruses may simply be a Frankenstein of mini viruses
The notion that giant viruses represent a potential fourth domain of life is now closer to being disproven, researchers say.
Discovered: Novel group of giant viruses
Viruses are thought to outnumber the microbes on Earth; both outnumber the stars in the Milky Way.
One monoclonal antibody protects against 2 lethal viruses
A new study reports that one human monoclonal antibody therapy protected nonhuman primates from the lethal hemorrhagic fevers caused by both Marburg and Ravn viruses.
Viruses in the oceanic basement
A team of scientists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) showed for the first time that many novel viruses are present in the fluids circulating deep in the rocky crust of the seafloor known as the ocean basement.
New link found between sex and viruses
Sexual reproduction and viral infections both rely on a functionally identical protein, according to new research.
Fighting viruses to improve agriculture
A University of California, Riverside researcher is leading a team that will receive $300,000 over two years to study the life cycles of viruses that are harmful to humans and agricultural plants.
Viruses in the genome important for our brain
Over millions of years retroviruses have been incorporated into our human DNA, where they today make up almost 10 per cent of the total genome.
World of viruses uncovered
A groundbreaking study of the virosphere of the most populous animals has uncovered 1,445 viruses, revealing people have only scratched the surface of the world of viruses -- but it is likely that only a few cause disease.
Your viruses could reveal your travel history, and more
The genomes of two distinct strains of the virus that causes the common lip cold sore, herpes simplex virus type 1, have been identified within an individual person -- an achievement that could be useful to forensic scientists for tracing a person's history.

Related Viruses Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".