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New technique takes a big step in examination of small structures
Date:3/5/2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A team led by a Purdue University researcher has achieved images of a virus in detail two times greater than had previously been achieved.

Wen Jiang, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Purdue, led a research team that used the emerging technique of single-particle electron cryomicroscopy to capture a three-dimensional image of a virus at a resolution of 4.5 angstroms. Approximately 1 million angstroms would equal the diameter of a human hair.

"This is one of the first projects to refine the technique to the point of near atomic-level resolution," said Jiang, who also is a member of Purdue's structural biology group. "This breaks a threshold and allows us to now see a whole new level of detail in the structure. This is the highest resolution ever achieved for a living organism of this size."

Details of the structure of a virus provide valuable information for development of disease treatments, he said.

"If we understand the system - how the virus particles assemble and how they infect a host cell - it will greatly improve our ability to design a treatment," Jiang said. "Structural biologists perform the basic science and provide information to help those working on the clinical aspects."

A paper detailing the work was published in the Feb. 28 issue of Nature.

Roger Hendrix, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, said what is learned about viruses can be applied to many other biological systems.

"Understanding the proteins that create the structure of a virus gives us insight into the tiny biological machines found throughout our bodies," he said. "Getting to 4.5 angstrom using this technique is a watershed of sorts because it is the first time we can actually trace the polypeptide chain - the backbone of proteins. Now we can see the tiny gears and levers that allow the proteins to move and interact as they carry out their intri
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Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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