Scientists get a closer look at the Influenza virus
Scientists have continually strived to see exactly what is happening with the influenza virus at molecular level but with the latest technology Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have made a major advance in understanding how flu viruses replicate themselves within infected cells. Using the latest technology in molecular biology and electron-microscopy techniques, scientists have the ability to see in greater detail the influenza’s essential protein complexes in unprecedented detail.
A report in Science Express (Nov 2012) explains how the influenza virus makes copies of itself by using a protein, ribnucleoprotein (RNP) and special enzyme material. Images generated in the study show flu virus proteins in the act of self-replication, highlighting the virus’s vulnerabilities that are sure to be of interest to drug developers. At the core of any influenza virus lie eight RNPs, tiny molecular machines that are vital to the virus’s ability to survive and spread in its hosts.
Scientists have managed to develop a test cell system where they can evaluate how the influenza proteins interact and how the machinery of self- replication works. Never Seen Before the imaging group’s innovations enable researchers to analyse molecular samples more easily, in less time, and often with less starting material. “We were able, for example, to automatically collect data for several days in a row, which is unusual in electron microscopy work,” said Arne Moeller, a postdoctoral research associate at the imaging group.
With the new images and other data scientists have been able to build the most complete model for the influenza virus and its RNP functions and structure, which suggests improved flu drugs being developed in the future on the basis of the findings.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced (Nov. 20 2012) the approval of Flucelvax, the first seasonal influenza vaccine licensed in the United States produced using cultured animal cells, instead of fertilized chicken eggs. Flucelvax is approved to prevent seasonal influenza in people ages 18 years and older. Getting vaccinated each year remains one of the best ways to prevent seasonal influenza. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an annual influenza vaccine.