Biosingularity

Archive for the ‘Viruses’ Category

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the cobas HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Test which identifies women at highest risk for developing cervical cancer. This test will help physicians make early, more accurate decisions about patient care, which may prevent many women from developing this deadly disease. Read the rest of this entry »

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MIT researchers have uncovered a critical difference between flu viruses that infect birds and humans, a discovery that could help scientists monitor the evolution of avian flu strains and aid in the development of vaccines against a deadly flu pandemic.

The researchers found that a virus’s ability to infect humans depends on whether it can bind to one specific shape of receptor on the surface of human respiratory cells.

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A team of physicists at the University of California, San Diego and biologists at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. has shown that a tiny viral motor generates twice as much power, relative to its size, as an automobile engine. The finding explains why even very large viruses can self-assemble so rapidly.

In the study, published October 23 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers used laser tweezers to measure the forces generated by a nanoscale motor that packs DNA into a virus during the assembly of an infectious virus particle. They discovered that the motor is considerably stronger than any known molecular motors, including those responsible for muscle contraction. The researchers say this power allows the virus to reel in its long genome with remarkable speed Read the rest of this entry »

When ancient retroviruses slipped bits of their DNA into the primate genome millions of years ago, they successfully preserved their own genetic legacy. Today an estimated 8 percent of the human genetic code consists of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs)–the DNA remnants from these so-called “selfish parasites.”

Surprisingly, the infected hosts and their primate descendants also appear to have benefited from this genetic invasion, new evidence suggests. The ancient retroviruses–distant relatives of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–helped a gene called p53 become an important “master gene regulator” in primates, according to a study published this week in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Computer simulations and visualizations are performing the thought experiments of the 21st century and pushing the limits of human vision and imagination. In silico simulations are probably future of many complex biological experiments.

Hat tip to  reasonable deviations blog.

Human resistance to a retrovirus that infected chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates 4 million years ago ironically may be at least partially responsible for the susceptibility of humans to HIV infection today.

“This ancient virus is a battle that humans have already won. Humans are not susceptible to it and have probably been resistant throughout millennia,” said senior author Michael Emerman, Ph.D., a member of the Human Biology and Basic Sciences divisions at the Hutchinson Center. “However, we found that during primate evolution, this innate immunity to one virus may have made us more vulnerable to HIV.”

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In the latest version of the hide-and-seek game between pathogens and the hosts they infect, researchers have found that a virus appears to cloak itself with a recently discovered gene silencing device to evade detection and destruction by immune cells.

The report by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers in an article published in the June 2, 2005, issue of Nature may be the first to show how a virus uses the gene silencing machinery for its own infectious purposes.

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Scientists working in Switzerland, Vietnam and the United States say they have isolated antibodies that they hope could offer protection against several different strains of the virus simultaneously. Antibodies are used by our immune system to neutralise bacteria and viruses – in this case, the scientists have isolated antibodies that bird flu survivors in Vietnam produced to fight off the disease. Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland, says the antibodies have already proven effective in the lab and in mice and he is confident that they could be used in humans.

Read rest of the story at BBC News site.

This is an outstanding 3D animation of HIV replication cycle. I especially loved the entry part, which is like watching a science fiction movie.

The animation is fairly accurate representation of what we know about the this viruses life cycle today, except the part on entry of viral DNA into nucleus. Based on our current knowledge, import of viral DNA into nucleus is not dependent on integrase but other viral and host proteins that are still elusive. Integrase is however necessary for the integration of virus DNA into host genome.

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Scientists of the Biophysical Engineering Group of the University of Twente in The Netherlands have developed an ultrasensitive sensor that can be used in a handheld device to, within minutes, detect various viruses and measure their concentration. The sensor could be used to quickly screen people at hospitals, airports and emergency clinics to control outbreaks of diseases such as SARS and the bird flu. All it would take is a tiny sample of saliva, blood, or other body fluid.

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In a study of non-human primates infected with the influenza virus that killed 50 million people in 1918, an international team of scientists has found a critical clue to how the virus killed so quickly and efficiently. Writing this week (Jan. 18, 2007) in the journal Nature, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka reveals how the 1918 virus – modern history’s most savage influenza strain – unleashes an immune response that destroys the lungs in a matter of days, leading to death.

The finding is important because it provides insight into how the virus that swept the world in the closing days of World War I was so efficiently deadly, claiming many of its victims people in the prime of life. The work suggests that it may be possible in future outbreaks of highly pathogenic flu to stem the tide of death through early intervention.
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The accumulation of genetic damage in our cells is a major contributor to how we age, according to a study being published today in the journal Nature by an international group of researchers. The study found that mice completely lacking a critical gene for repairing damaged DNA grow old rapidly and have physical, genetic and hormonal profiles very similar to mice that grow old naturally. Furthermore, the premature aging symptoms of the mice led to the discovery of a new type of human progeria, a rare inherited disease in which affected individuals age rapidly and die prematurely.
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Waiting a day or more to get lab results back from the doctor’s office soon could become a thing of a past. Using nanotechnology, a team of University of Georgia researchers has developed a diagnostic test that can detect viruses as diverse as influenza, HIV and RSV in 60 seconds or less.

In addition to saving time, the technique – which is detailed in the November issue of the journal Nano Letters – could save lives by rapidly detecting a naturally occurring disease outbreak or bioterrorism attack.
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In order to find out how one of the world’s most devastating diseases overcomes state-of-the-art drugs, scientists led by Dr. Vineet KewalRamani at National Cancer Institute (NCI) are biohacking and re-engineering the HIV virus. Dr. KewalRamani and his collegues have combined pieces of HIV and another virus to create a deadly new hybrid—a tenacious little microbe that knows all the tricks of its parent pathogens. Discovering where, and how, HIV hides in the body will be a critical step towards a cure for the disease—or at least a better treatment.

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French researchers have resurrected a retrovirus that became trapped in the human genome about five million years ago. Pieced together from existing sequences in human DNA, the reconstructed virus was able to infect mammalian cells weakly, suggesting that it works similarly to the extinct organism.

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A moderate exercise program may reduce the incidence of colds. A study published in the November issue of The American Journal of Medicine, led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found that otherwise sedentary women who engaged in moderate exercise had fewer colds over a one year period than a control group.
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An analysis of mice infected with the reconstructed 1918 influenza virus has revealed that although the infection triggered a very strong immune system response, the response failed to protect the animals from severe lung disease and death.
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Scientists reveal the structure of a protein that packages the viral genome and helps viruses to replicate while avoiding human immune reactions

Ebola, measles and rabies are serious threats to public health in developing countries. Despite different symptoms all of the diseases are caused by the same class of viruses that unlike most other living beings carry their genetic information on a single RNA molecule instead of a double strand of DNA. Now researchers from the Institut de Virologie Moléculaire et Structurale [IVMS] and the Outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] in Grenoble have obtained a detailed structural picture of a protein that allows the rabies virus to withstand the human immune response and survive and replicate in our cells.

The study that is published in this week’s online edition of Science suggests new potential drug targets in rabies and sheds light on how similar approaches can help fighting other viral diseases.
1214_web.jpg Read the rest of this entry »

The virulence characteristic of HIV-1–the virus predominantly responsible for human AIDS–might amount to an accident of evolution, new evidence reveals. A gene function lost during the course of viral evolution predisposed HIV-1 to spur the fatal immune system failures that are the hallmarks of AIDS, researchers report in the June 16, 2006 Cell.

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Genetically modified viruses that assemble into electrodes could one day revolutionise battery manufacturing.

Researchers in the US have created viruses that automatically coat themselves in metals and line up head to tail to form an efficient battery anode – the negatively charged component that channels electrons to generate current. These nanowires could be used to make revolutionary new forms of lithium-ion batteries, the researchers say.

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As the world marks the 25th year since the first diagnosed case of AIDS, groundbreaking research by scientists at Florida State University has produced remarkable three-dimensional images of the virus and the protein spikes on its surface that allow it to bind and fuse with human immune cells.

Findings from this AIDS research could boost the development of vaccines that will thwart infection by targeting and crippling the sticky HIV-1 spike proteins.

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Despite lack of a key component of the immune system, a line of genetically engineered mice can control chronic herpes virus infections, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

Scientists can't prove it yet, but they suspect the missing immune system component, a group of molecules known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class Ia, has a previously unrecognized backup that is similar enough to step in and fill the void left by its absence. If so, that backup may become a new focus for efforts to design antiviral vaccines.
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Biologists at Purdue University have taken a “snapshot” of a Velcro-like protein on a cell’s surface just after it attached to the dengue virus, a linkup thought to initiate the early stages of infection.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, infects more than 50 million people annually, killing about 24,000 each year, primarily in tropical regions.

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Like boxers wearied by a 15-round bout, the immune system’s CD8 T cells eventually become “exhausted” in their battle against persistent viral infection, and less effective in fighting the disease.

In a study to be published Dec. 28 on the journal Nature’s website, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Emory University have traced the problem to a gene that turns off the infection-fighting drive of CD8 T cells in mice. The discovery raises the possibility that CD8 cell exhaustion can be reversed in human patients, reinvigorating the immune system’s defenses against chronic viral infections ranging from hepatitis to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

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A cancer-fighting virus has eliminated malignant brain tumors and prolonged survival in mice with a single injection.

Reporting in the journal Cancer Research, Canadian scientists from Calgary and London, Ontario have shown for the first time that myxoma virus, a poxvirus, kills human brain tumors in mice.
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