Measles kills an estimated 122,000 people per year, mostly children in developing countries. It’s caused by a virus that invades human cells and induces them to fuse together into dysfunctional clumps called syncytia – one such clump is pictured here, formed from six cells. To defend themselves, cells produce a protein called RLRS that recognises strands of viral RNA – the invader’s genetic material – and triggers the production of enzymes that attack the virus. In a recent experiment, scientists infected cells with the measles virus and then isolated the RLRS-RNA complexes so that the interaction between the two molecules could be studied in detail. A better understanding of this immune response could help us to develop new anti-viral drugs and increase our knowledge of auto-immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.