Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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New imaging approach reveals details of SARS-COV-2 behaviour in host cells with potential as treatment targets

16 September 2021

Intel Inside

The symptoms of a viral infection start with damage to single cells. Here researchers use a combination of cryo-imaging techniques to examine mammalian cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Electron beams pick out the contours of tiny fragile structures inside, the information used to build a computer model. Researchers find likely 'tunnels' dug by the viral particles (red) to spread out from the host cell, but also significant damage, or cytopathy. The nucleus (light blue) is stretched out of shape as part by cytoplasm juts inside, while some of the cell’s 'power stations' or mitochondria (purple) are missing. Zooming back out to treat COVID-19 patients, researchers may use these insights to help block viral passage through tissues, test for novel hallmarks of infection or design drugs to protect cells from this dramatic damage.

Written by John Ankers

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