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Using a homemade, high-tech microscope, scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have revealed how a cancer-causing virus anchors itself to our DNA. That discovery could pave the way for doctors to cure incurable diseases by flushing out viruses, including HPV and Epstein-Barr, that now permanently embed themselves in our cells.
"The reason we can't get rid of these [viruses] is because we can't figure out a way to get their DNA out of the nucleus, out of the cell," explained UVA researcher Dean H. Kedes, MD, PhD. "They depend on this 'tether' to remain anchored to the DNA within our cells, and to remain attached even as the cells divide. This tether is a key factor to disrupt in devising a cure."
Scientists - Infrastructure - Kedes - Virus - Hold
Now that scientists can understand this vital infrastructure, they can work to disassemble it. "Without it," Kedes noted, "the virus is going to lose its hold in the body. ... Bad for the virus, but very good for the patient."
The researchers used the microscope built by fellow investigator M. Mitchell Smith, PhD, to reveal the structure of the tether used by a virus called Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). Until now, such tethers have largely eluded scientists because they are so diabolically small, defying even the most high-tech approaches to determining their form. "We're seeing things on the order of 8,000 times smaller than a human hair," said Smith, who built UVA's microscope piece-by-piece based on one pioneered in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Maine.
Smith - Microscope - Nothing - Microscope - School
Smith's microscope is nothing like the simple light microscope seen in every high school biology class. It's a stunning marriage of stainless steel and laser beams, looking much like an oversized sci-fi...
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