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Science

Human Genome Contaminated With Mycoplasma DNA 123

Posted by timothy
from the beer-goggles-to-the-nth-degree dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The published human genome is contaminated with DNA sequences from mycoplasma bacteria, according to bioinformatics researchers who blame an epidemic of mycoplasma contamination in molecular biology labs around the world. The researchers say they've also found mycoplasma DNA in two commercially available human DNA chips made by biotech companies for measuring levels of human gene expression. So anybody using these chips to measure human gene expression is also unknowingly measuring mycoplasma gene expression too. The mycoplasma genes are clearly successful in reproducing themselves in silico raising the possibility that we're seeing the beginnings of an entirely new kind of landscape of infection. One option to combat this kind of virtual infection is to protect databases with the genomic version of antivirus software, a kind of virtual immune system. But this in itself could make things worse by triggering an evolutionary arms race that selects genes most capable of beating the safeguards."
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Human Genome Contaminated With Mycoplasma DNA

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  • by Latinhypercube (935707) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @04:16PM (#36546364)
    This is EXACTLY what happened in 70s-80s with Henrietta Lacks IMMORTAL 'HeLa' cell. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa [wikipedia.org]
    Her cells were the first Human cells to grow outside the human body.
    In fact they were so successful, that unbeknown to scientists ALL OVER THE WORLD, her cells had TAKEN OVER all of the cells in their labratories GLOBALLY.
    There is an amazing BBC documentary on this by Adam Curtis called "Modern Times: The Way of All Flesh"
    wiki quote " Contamination: Because of their adaptation to growth in tissue culture plates, HeLa cells are sometimes difficult to control. They have proven to be a persistent laboratory "weed" that contaminates other cell cultures in the same laboratory, interfering with biological research and forcing researchers to declare many results invalid. The degree of HeLa cell contamination among other cell types is unknown because few researchers test the identity or purity of already-established cell lines. It has been demonstrated that a substantial fraction of in vitro cell lines — approximately 10%, maybe 20% — are contaminated with HeLa cells"
    Almost created a COLD WAR incident:
    wiki quote:-"The USSR and the USA had begun to cooperate in the war on cancer launched by President Richard Nixon only to find that the exchanged cells were contaminated by HeLa"
  • by stillnotelf (1476907) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @04:18PM (#36546392)
    The human genome is surely highly contaminated, just not with mycoplasma. Endogenous retroviruses, retrotransposons, repetitive elements galore, on the other hand...
  • Mindless drivel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Iron (III) Chloride (922186) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @04:54PM (#36546862)

    I don't want to be excessively harsh but the summary was seriously a bunch of drivel. In silico either means it's data on the computer, or that you are simulating a biological process computationally. But as other posters have mentioned, unless you are purposely simulating evolution, mycoplasma sequences in your human databases isn't going to cause any "arms race." Yes, it seriously screws with validity, but that's a completely different issue.

    This is a generalization, and no offense to fellow Slashdotters, but in my experience most of the computer scientists that I've met have a really crappy understanding of even basic biology. CS concepts don't directly translate to biology ones.

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