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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid