Though this fiscal year started with the confusion for COVID-19, we launched virtual, iTHEMS Biology Seminar. As the first speaker of the seminar series, Asher Leeks, who is appointed with the University of Oxford and visiting Japan as IPA student, gave a talk on his own work on virus-virus interactions. Viruses may disperse (or move) between cells in a group, forming a “collective infectious unit” (CIU). If viruses can interact positively (i.e., larger CIUs enable faster replication), then CIU, albeit physiologically costly, is likely to be favored by natural selection (i.e., evolutionarily advantageous), with the result that fewer but bigger CIUs may emerge. With negative interactions, in contrast, natural selection favors smaller CIUs/no CIUs at all. This is so because, under negative interactions, forming groups would not pay. These contrasting results, therefore, suggest that understanding viral interactions may be of pivotal importance, with potential implications for clinics. He then explained genomic data for comparison and finally talked about our current collaboration project at iTHEMS. Since more and more people are now interested in virology, his new theory may give insight into a wide range of fields, and we learned a lot about what is going on within patients' bodies. Thanks for the excellent talk, Asher!
-Ryosuke Iritani (iTHEMS, Research Scientist)