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New imaging approach reveals details of SARS-COV-2 behaviour in host cells with potential as treatment targets

16 September 2021

Intel Inside

The symptoms of a viral infection start with damage to single cells. Here researchers use a combination of cryo-imaging techniques to examine mammalian cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Electron beams pick out the contours of tiny fragile structures inside, the information used to build a computer model. Researchers find likely 'tunnels' dug by the viral particles (red) to spread out from the host cell, but also significant damage, or cytopathy. The nucleus (light blue) is stretched out of shape as part by cytoplasm juts inside, while some of the cell’s 'power stations' or mitochondria (purple) are missing. Zooming back out to treat COVID-19 patients, researchers may use these insights to help block viral passage through tissues, test for novel hallmarks of infection or design drugs to protect cells from this dramatic damage.

Written by John Ankers

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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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