When attracting mates and deterring predators, fireflies emit a light created by an enzyme called luciferase. Playing on this natural occurrence, scientists mixed the fluorescent enzyme with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), to track where SIV infects cells within the reproductive tract of female macaque monkeys. Contrary to previous beliefs that the virus is passed to women within the cells of the cervix, they found that SIV infects cells from the labia all the way through to the ovaries, targeting a population of T cells that play an important role in the immune response (T cells stained with green fluorescence and SIV protein with red). As the HIV infection of humans is very similar, this research could lead to the development of more specific prevention methods for women, targeting the virus at its earliest stages.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.