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Hunting Viruses

In cell culture, DNA, molecular biology, RNA, virus on March 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

If it comes to speak about the future possibilities of molecular biology, it is worth keeping an eye on the medical applications. And if you think about the most peculiar infection agents you should for sure think of viruses also. What is a virus? Of course we all know what a virus might cause to us, like a simple respiratory infection. These are usually caused by viral infections that later are super infected with bacteria. I had a professor who tried to explain us what a virus is. It skips almost any definitions. We can not be sure if we could consider a living thing at all!!! At the end he told us in a laconic way: a virus is a VIRUS! Nothing more.

If we try to find them it is good to know, that they were discovered through the observation that you can transfer an infection from one cell culture to the other even after filtrating the solution through a filter with 0.4 micrometer holes. That means that no bacteria can bypass this filter, but infections can be transferred with this solution. The firs experiments were done in order to monitor these infections, to see that after infection there was a “clean window period”, a period when the infections agent disappeared from the cell culture. After this window the virus reappeared and the supernatant solution had infections properties again.

Today we know plenty of details about viruses. There are basically two flavours of them DNA and RNA viruses. So that is an important point! because we have plenty of molecular biology tools that allow us to characterize nucleic acids. One of the most complex tool from this series is the DNA microarray. As one of my students pointed out last week, in the next video from TED, we can have a wonderful presentation about how these tools can be used in a fast and relatively easy way to get a deeper insight in the world of viruses. As a perspective the video shows us some excellent diagnostic applications that will be probably used to develop state of the art diagnostic tools in the next couple of years.

So, let us see how it works!

More info about the viruses and vaccination, here.

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