Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Frozen Herpes

Stereograms of herpes virus by cryogenic electron microscopy reveal new detail on structure that could be targeted by drugs

01 August 2018

Frozen Herpes

Viruses are biological machines built to spread infection. They trick infected cells into replicating their genetic material, pumping it into shell-like containers called capsids ready to infect more cells. Different herpes viruses can cause everything from cold-sores and inherited disorders, to some forms of cancer, yet they share similar traits. This computer reconstruction of the herpes simplex virus is based on images of frozen virus particles captured using cryogenic electron microscopy. Shades of pink and purple highlight the virus’ 'portal', where genetic material pumps into the capsid – from the side (top) or looking up (below). Each pair of images is presented as a sort of 'magic eye' picture, or 3D stereogram. Understanding how the herpes machinery works at vital stages of infection may help to design new drugs that point the immune system in the right direction, combatting infections with this pretty pathogen that can last a lifetime.

Written by John Ankers

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