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Adenoviruses were first discovered in 1953 by Wallace Rowe and his colleagues. They were isolated from adenoid tissue cell culture, hence the family name of Adenoviridae.

Dr. John Trentin. Photo courtesy of http://obit.wcfish.com/obit_display.cgi

In 1962, John Trentin and his colleagues showed that human adenovirus type 12 causes cancer in baby hamsters in a laboratory setting. This was the first demonstration of oncogenic activity by a human virus. Since then, adenoviruses have been suspected in inducing human cancer but have yet to be strongly linked to it.

Experiments involving adenoviruses, which are easy to culture and work with, have made important contributions to eukaryotic molecular biology. Adenoviruses have helped scientists understand messenger RNA splicing, alternative polyadenylation, enhancers, and protein inactivation of tumor suppressor genes.