This program examines the research of six controversial biologists who claim that viruses go beyond causing harmful diseases and in fact are the origins of human life. At the Center for Virus Research at the University of California-Irvine, Dr. Luis Villarreal studies "junk DNA," arguing that retroviruses changed our genetic blueprint and affected our evolution from early hominids. Taking this claim further, Dr. Mark Young and Dr. Trevor Douglas of Montana State University-Bozeman discuss the role of Mimi, a massive virus discovered in 2003 by a French researcher. Using Mimi as a model, Young and Douglas theorize that ancient viruses may have been able to function like cells and replicate hosts, therefore creating unique genes even before complex life. Conducting fieldwork in Cameroon, Dr. Nathan Wolfe of the Stanford Virus Forecasting Initiative studies how retroviruses jump from animals to humans on a daily basis, causing genetic mutations that may provide insight into our human origins. Also studying human origins on a practical level, reproductive biologist Dr. Tom Spencer of Texas A&M discovered that retroviruses found in the human placenta are needed for the embryo's implantation in the uterus. Researching perhaps the most provocative claim, Dr. Larry Young of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University argues that viruses are in fact the agents of love. Using prairie voles as animal models, Young found that the viruses released during sex only create lifelong bonds--triggering "love"--when viruses activate hormone receptors in the brain. When viruses are introduced to these receptors, normally polyandrous voles bond to their mates for life.
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