Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A Viral Signature
31 October 2015

A Viral Signature

Significant progress has been made in antiviral therapeutics over the last decade and as a result the importance of timely and accurate viral diagnostics has increased. Recently, a new non-invasive technique using atomic force microscopy has been introduced to identify and study viruses based on their electrostatic interactions. Researchers have found that the electrostatic charge on the surface of a virus is dependent on the protein shell of the virus and on the contained genetic material. The electrostatic charge therefore serves as a unique signature for diagnostics. By absorbing different viral particles onto a graphite surface their individual levels of attraction towards a charged probe can be measured, and thus their electrostatic charge can be calculated, giving insight into the structure and identity of the virus. Pictured are protein shells of the virus bacteriophage T7 – the charged probe is positioned above to measure the attraction to the tip.

Written by Helen Thomas

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