First computational reconstruction of a virus in its biological entirety – ScienceDaily

First computational reconstruction of a virus in its biological entirety – ScienceDaily

A researcher from Aston University has created the first-ever computer reconstruction of a virus, including its full native genome.

Although other researchers have made similar reconstructions, this is the first to replicate the exact chemical and 3D structure of a “living” virus.

The breakthrough could pave the way for research into an alternative to antibiotics and reduce the threat of antibacterial resistance.

Research Reconstruction and validation of whole genome virus model from mixed resolution cryo-EM density from Dr. Dmitry Nerukh from the Department of Mathematics at Aston University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences is published in the journal Faraday Discussions.

The research was carried out using existing data of virus structures measured by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and computer modelling, which took almost three years despite the use of supercomputers in the UK and Japan.

The breakthrough will pave the way for biologists to study biological processes that cannot currently be fully studied because the genome is missing from the virus model.

This includes figuring out how a bacteriophage, a type of virus that infects bacteria, kills a specific disease-causing bacterium.

It is not known at the moment how this happens, but this new method of creating more accurate models will open up further research into using bacteriophages to kill certain life-threatening bacteria.

This could lead to more targeted treatment of diseases currently treated with antibiotics, thereby helping to counteract the increasing threat posed to humans by antibiotic resistance.

dr Nerukh said: “Until now, no one else has been able to create a native genome model of a whole virus at such a detailed (atomistic) level.

“The ability to examine the genome inside a virus in more detail is incredibly important. Without the genome, it was impossible to know exactly how a bacteriophage infects a bacterium.

“This development will now enable virologists to answer questions they were previously unable to answer.

“This could lead to targeted treatments to kill bacteria dangerous to humans and reduce the global problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is becoming more serious over time.”

The team’s modeling approach has many other potential applications. One is creating computer reconstructions to support cryo-electron microscopy – a technique used to study life forms that have been cooled to extreme temperatures.

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