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2006 National DNA Day Online Chatroom Transcript

This is just one question from an archive of the National DNA Day Moderated Chat held in April 2006. The NHGRI Director and many genomics experts from across NHGRI took questions from students, teachers and the general public on topics ranging from basic genomic research, to the genetic basis of disease, to ethical questions about genetic privacy.

How do viruses affect the structure of your DNA?
     David Bodine, M.D., Ph.D.: Some viruses can integrate into your DNA and this changes the sequencein that area by adding the virus genes. HIV is an example of this kind of a virus. They introduce a "nick" into the DNA and then use a protein called integrase to insert themselves into the genome. Sometimes they can interrupt a gene, which would cause it to be defective, or it can make a gene that would be silent "turn on" which can cause problems. However, most of the genome does not contain genes so most of the insertions do not cause problems. Other viruses like the ones that cause colds or skin rashes do not integrate into DNA, but they live in cells and make proteins that cause you trouble.

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