Image pinpoints all 5 million atoms in viral coat

full story @ www.media.rice.edu
Researchers decipher protective shield used by hundreds of viruses
BY JADE BOYD

Rice News staff

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Rice University’s precise new image of a virus’ protective coat is seriously undervalued. More than three years in the making, the image contains some 5 million atoms — each in precisely the right place — and it could help scientists find better ways to both fight viral infections and design new gene therapies.

The stunning image, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals the structure of a type of protein coat shared by hundreds of known viruses containing double-stranded RNA genomes. The image was painstakingly created from hundreds of high-energy X-ray diffraction images and paints the clearest picture yet of the viruses’ genome-encasing shell called a “capsid.”

“When these viruses invade cells, the capsids get taken inside and never completely break apart,” said lead researcher Jane Tao.
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