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A nanoscale window to the biological world
Date:12/20/2012

ow things move in time," said McDonald. "Debbie is developing technologies to bridge that gap, because that's clearly the next big breakthrough that structural biology needs."

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and children. By the age of 5, nearly every child in the world has been infected at least once. And although the disease tends to be easily managed in the developed world, in developing countries rotavirus kills more than 450,000 children a year.

At the second step in the pathogen's life cycle, rotavirus sheds its outer layer, which allows it to enter a cell, and becomes what is called a double-layered particle. Once its second layer is exposed, the virus is ready to begin using the cell's own infrastructure to produce more viruses. It was the viral structure at this stage that the researchers imaged in the new study.

Kelly and McDonald coated the interior window of the microchip with antibodies to the virus. The antibodies, in turn, latched onto the rotaviruses that were injected into the microfluidic chamber and held them in place. The researchers then used a transmission electron microscope to image the prepared slide.

The technique worked perfectly.

The experiment gave results that resembled those achieved using traditional freezing methods to prepare rotavirus for electron microscopy, proving that the new technique can deliver accurate results.

"It's the first time scientists have imaged anything on this scale in liquid," said Kelly.

The next step is to continue to develop the technique with an eye toward imaging biological structures dynamically in action.

Specifically, McDonald is looking to understand how rotavirus assembles, so as to better know and develop tools to combat this particular enemy of children's health.

The researchers said their ongoing collaboration is an example of the cross-disciplinary work that is becoming a hallmark of t
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Contact: Paula Byron
paulabyron@vtc.vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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