The first computational reconstruction of a virus in its biological entirety — ScienceDaily

The first computational reconstruction of a virus in its biological entirety — ScienceDaily

An Aston University researcher has created the first ever computer reconstruction of a virus, including its entire native genome.

Although similar reconstructions have been created by other researchers, this is the first to replicate the exact chemical and 3D structure of a ‘living’ virus.

This advance could lead the way to researching alternatives to antibiotics, reducing the threat of bacterial resistance.

The research Reconstruction and validation of a complete virus model with a complete genome from mixed-resolution cryo-EM density by Dr Dmitry Nerukh, from the Department of Mathematics in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Aston University published in the journal Faraday talks.

The research was carried out using existing virus structure data measured by cryo-Electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and computational modeling that took almost three years despite the use of supercomputers in the UK and Japan.

The breakthrough will open the way for biologists to investigate biological processes that cannot be fully examined at the moment because the genome is missing in the virus model.

This includes discovering how a bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria, kills specific disease-causing bacteria.

How this happens is currently unknown, but this new method of creating more accurate models will open up further research into using bacteriophage to kill specific life-threatening bacteria.

This could lead to more targeted treatment of illnesses that are currently treated with antibiotics, thus helping to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance to humans.

Dr Nerukh said: “Until now no one else has been able to build a native genome model of a whole virus at such a detailed (atomic) level.

“It is extremely important that the genome within the virus is studied more clearly. Without the genome it is not possible to know exactly how a bacteriophage infects bacteria.

“This development will now help virologists answer questions they could not answer before.

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

The team’s approach to modeling has many other potential applications. One of these is creating a computational reconstruction to aid in cryo-Electron microscopy — a technique used to examine life forms that have been cooled to extreme temperatures.

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