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Double Agent
22 August 2015

Double Agent

In a few decades time you might be given a virus as a vaccination. Viruses cause disease by spreading easily throughout the body and inserting their genetic material into the host’s DNA, but this could make modified, non-harmful viruses useful to medicine. Such viruses – including types of adenovirus (AdV) – could be used to insert vaccines or working copies of genes to treat genetic diseases. Current research is examining how they enter cells and transmit their DNA. This image shows neurons containing Coxsackievirus adenovirus receptor (CAR), a cell receptor that viruses such as AdV use to enter cells. CAR runs through the cell’s outer membrane: the part outside is shown in green, and the inside part in red. Adenoviruses have been shown to treat genetic diseases in dogs and are being trialled for use in rabies vaccines. Soon the idea of fighting virus with virus may not seem so strange.

Written by Esther Redhouse White

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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