News / Health

High-Tech Images Show How Viruses Infect Cells

High-Tech Images Show How Viruses Infect Cellsi
X
January 30, 2013 2:58 AM
As people around the world contend with illnesses caused by viruses, including this year's strain of the flu or influenza, researchers continue to study how viruses work and how they manage to invade living cells in everything from bacteria to human organs. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports, University of Texas researchers recently collaborated on an innovative technique that allowed them to see a virus in the act of infecting a cell.

High-Tech Images Show How Viruses Infect Cells

Greg Flakus
As people around the world contend with illnesses caused by viruses, including this year's strain of the flu or influenza, researchers continue to study how viruses work and how they manage to invade living cells in everything from bacteria to human organs. University of Texas researchers recently collaborated on an innovative technique that allowed them to see a virus in the act of  infecting a cell.

At the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Jun Liu uses a powerful electron microscope to examine E. coli bacteria and the tiny T-7 virus that infects them.

Liu says until now, scientists could only speculate on how this virus injected its genetic material into another cell, because it happens in an instant.

“Before they inject in, they do not have a channel. After they inject in, they actually degrade the channel, so you never have a chance to see it,” Liu said.

But in a collaborative study with other University of Texas colleagues, Liu used the electron microscope to examine quick-frozen solutions full of bacteria and viruses.

“Because when you freeze it, it is kind of like a snapshot that captures some intermediate stage. This is one of the highlights of this study, because we captured this intermediate stage that nobody had seen before,” Liu said.

This sophisticated technology was applied to a particular virus in this study, but what the researchers found could be useful in studying other viruses in the future, viruses that cause many diseases, such as influenza, or AIDS.

That is the hope of study participant Ian Molineux, professor of biology at the University of Texas main campus in Austin, who prepared the virus samples used in the study.

“If we can find a way of blocking any of multiple steps towards the final internalization of the genetic material, it provides the potential for finding more anti-viral drugs,” Molineux said.

An animation, produced for Science magazine by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, shows how the virus puts out tendrils to, in effect, “walk” on the cell surface.

"Then it stops moving and all the legs come down and get fixed on the cell surface, and the infection begins to initiate," Molineux said.

Molineux says the collaborative effort with Liu and others paid off, with each member of the team bringing his own area of expertise into play.

“We have a very strong collaboration. We are looking at other viruses now,” Molineux said.

He says each advance in understanding how viruses function brings researchers closer to finding ways to defeat them - and save lives.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid