An Anglo-Chinese collaboration used the facilities at Diamond to solve the structure of the Human Enterovirus 71 (EV71), which is the root cause of the disease. Using synchrotron light, the team were able to visualise the virus in different states and collect a series of structures, from which they were able to uncover a detailed picture of the virus's actions in sequence - rather than being a rigid object, the virus appears to actually "breathe". Such visualisation requires specialist microscopes ten thousand times more powerful than standard laboratory microscopes.
This achievement creates new opportunities for therapies being developed. Prof Stuart explains:
"Together with our Chinese Colleagues, we have now uncovered the structure of EV71 and identified the process by which the virus spreads throughout cells in the human body. These findings can now be used to develop new treatments for hand-foot-and-mouth; and also directly translated to other viruses of the same family, including polio and some forms of the common cold."
The solving of hand, foot and mouth virus demonstrates the potential impact that the new capabilities could have. Crystal at the Diamond synchrotron enables researchers to rapidly visualise viruses in their entirety and at incredible scales. The facility's brilliant beams of X-rays allow scientists to study crystallised virus particles, and so produce a comprehensive 3D image of the virus structure. By identifying the virus structure in atomic detail, scientists can target research into vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
The facility is the only one of its kind in Europe and one of only two in the world. Dr Katherine McAuley, science leader for the facility concludes, "Crystal is a major advance, not jus
|Contact: Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke|
Diamond Light Source