Oxford & Univ. of Athens Research Connects Ancient Virus with Addiction

The Independent reports that DNA implanted in the “dark parts” of the human genome by ancient virus infections may help to explain why some people are more susceptible to drug addiction, a study suggests. Researchers from Oxford University and the University of Athens found changes in parts of the DNA which are thought to have little impact on human functions, could actually affect a suite of addiction-related behaviours. The culprit is a fragment of viral DNA, dubbed HK2, that appears near to genes which underpin the brain’s reward system and can increase the risk of addiction by interfering with the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which reinforces pleasure seeking behaviours.