LASER Talks at Stanford

LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) is Leonardo/ISAST's international program of evening gatherings that brings artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversations.

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UC Irvine molecular biologist Luis Villarreal on "Living in the Virosphere: A Virus-first Theory of the Evolution of Life"


Register here

After the event, the video will be posted here.

We now know that not all viruses are bad for us: for example, viruses play a role in the human microbiome. More importantly, viruses are drivers of genetic innovation and therefore of the evolution of life. While we have no definitive evidence of when the first virus emerged, we can speculate that, once created, viruses coevolved with their hosts. What role do viruses play in the evolution of life? Are viruses a fundamental force in shaping the trajectory of life on Earth? Did viruses shape our genome? Are viruses part of our genome? How much of today's human genome is virus? Is viral infection a force that drives biological evolution toward higher complexity? Have we humans been selected by viruses? Our world is predominantly prokaryotic (bacteria and archaea). The prokaryotes are the most ancient, diverse and adaptable of all cellular life forms on Earth. But even more abundant and diverse and adaptable are the viruses of prokaryotes, now known to be the most numerous biological entities on Earth in all habitats. Concepts of "virus communication" and "RNA communication" may shed new light on how viruses affect their hosts, and persisting viral agents may explain the widespread "communal" aspect of prokaryotic life. According to Villareal, persistent infection by a virus population alters the genetic background of the host (its identity); viruses and other genetic parasites play key roles in the evolution of all life and had a role in the origin of life, and not simply by providing negative selection. By looking at key features of life as we know it on our planet, including immune systems, replication, transcription, translation, and repair in all its steps and substeps, Villarreal argues that all these features and properties are the result of evolutionary innovations caused, generated, and introduced by viruses, RNA consortia, and other genetic parasites. These infectious agents are the innovators of all life. They insert and delete, adapt, modify, and, most importantly, counterbalance competing genetic identities. They cooperate, edit genetic codes, and are at the basis of the secrets of life - including human life.


CHAIRED BY: Piero Scaruffi





LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) Talks is Leonardo's international program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversations. LASER Talks were founded in 2008 by Bay Area LASER Chair Piero Scaruffi and are in over 30 cities around the world. To learn more about how our LASER Hosts and to visit a LASER near you please visit our website

The mission of the LASERs is to provide the general public with a snapshot of the cultural environment of a region and to foster interdisciplinary networking.

July 8th, 2020 6:00 PM through  7:00 PM
United States