Researchers Develop Virus Live Stream to Study Viral Infections

Competition Between Virus and Host Cells

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Live-capture of infection contaminated cells. After infection of a host cell, an infection attempts to reproduce (green dots), and attempts to avoid the host cell from disrupting viral duplication by assaulting the host cell’s nucleus (blue) and shutting-down protein production of the host cell (red). Credit: Sanne Boersma © Hubrecht Institute

Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University established a sophisticated strategy that makes it possible to keep an eye on a virus infection live. The scientists from the groups of Marvin Tanenbaum and Frank van Kuppeveld anticipate that the strategy can be utilized to study a variety of infections, consisting of SARS-CoV-2 — the infection accountable for the existing pandemic. The strategy called VIRIM (‘virus infection real-time imaging’) is for that reason extremely important for acquiring insights in virus infection in the body. Eventually, this can result in more targeted treatments for viral infection. The outcomes were released in the leading clinical journal Cell on the 13th of November.

Viruses have a big unfavorable effect on society. This is shown when again by the huge repercussions of the existing worldwide break out of SARS-CoV-2 for our physical and psychological health and for the economy.


RNA-infections represent a big group of infections, which bring their hereditary info in the type of RNA: a particle that resembles DNA, the hereditary product of human beings. After infection of a host cell, an RNA-virus pirates a number of the host cell’s functions and turns it into a virus-producing factory. This method, the burglar can rapidly reproduce within cells in the body. The brand-new infection particles are consequently launched through the breathing system and can contaminate other individuals. Examples of RNA-viruses consist of coronaviruses, the liver disease C infection, the zika infection, and enteroviruses — a group of infections that consists of rhinoviruses, triggering the acute rhinitis, coxsackieviruses, that are a crucial reason for viral meningitis and sleeping sickness, and the poliovirus, that triggers paralytic poliomyelitis.

Upon infection of a host cell, just a single viral RNA particle exists (area at start of infection). During duplication, the infection reproduces the RNA particle (boost in areas). VIRIM (virus infection real-time imaging) allows the analysis of duplication straight from the start of infection. Credit: Sanne Boersma © Hubrecht Institute

Live stream

Until now, offered methods might just supply a photo of virus-infected cells. In other words, scientists might see the contaminated cells at a specific time, however it was not possible to keep an eye on the procedure of virus infection from starting to end. The recently established microscopic lense innovation VIRIM (‘virus infection real-time imaging’) modifications that: scientists from the groups of Marvin Tanenbaum (Hubrecht) and Frank van Kuppeveld (Utrecht University) established this sophisticated approach with which the whole course of a virus infection can be imagined in the laboratory with excellent accuracy. “This new method enables us to address many important questions about viruses,” states Sanne Boersma, very first author of the research study.

Fluorescent infection

The approach utilizes SunTag — an innovation formerly established by Tanenbaum — in an enterovirus, a group of infections in which Van Kuppeveld has substantial proficiency. The SunTag is presented into the RNA of the infection and labels viral proteins with a really brilliant fluorescent tag. Using this fluorescent tag, viral proteins can be seen utilizing a microscopic lense, enabling scientists to see when, where and how rapidly an infection produces it proteins and reproduces in its host cell. VIRIM is far more delicate than other approaches: protein production from a single viral RNA can be identified. This enables scientists to track the course of the infection from the very start.

Upon infection of a host cell, just a single viral RNA particle exists (area at start of infection). In this host cell, the infection stop working to reproduce, as no boost in areas can be identified. Credit: Sanne Boersma © Hubrecht Institute


The foundation of our bodies — cells — have their own defense system to find and remove an infection upon infection. Once an infection goes into a cell, a competitors occurs in between the infection and the host cell: the infection intends to pirate the cell to reproduce itself, while the host attempts extremely difficult to avoid this. Using VIRIM, scientists had the ability to see the result of this competitors. They discovered that in a subset of cells, the host cell won the competitors. Boersma: “These host cells were infected by a virus, but the virus failed to replicate.” This set off the interest of Boersma and her coworkers and resulted in a brand-new experiment.

Achilles’ heel of the infection

The scientists assisted host cells by improving their defense system. As it ended up, the extremely first viral duplication typically stopped working in the cells that had actually gotten the increase, which avoided the infection from taking control of the host. “The first step in the replication process is the Achilles’ heel of this virus: this moment determines whether the virus can spread further,” Boersma describes. “If the host cell does not manage to eliminate the virus at the very beginning of an infection, the virus will replicate and win the competition.” Boersma and her coworkers utilized a picorna infection for the advancement of VIRIM. Members of this infection household can trigger illness varying from the acute rhinitis to serious illness such as Polio.

Wide range of infections

VIRIM allows the recognition of the susceptible stages of a variety of infections. The scientists anticipate the strategy to be important for research study into numerous dangerous infections, consisting of SARS-CoV-2. Boersma describes: “Understanding viral replication and spreading can help us determine the Achilles’ heel of a virus. This knowledge can contribute to the development of treatments, for example a treatment that intervenes during a vulnerable moment in the virus’ life. That allows us to create more efficient therapies and hopefully mitigate the impact of viruses on society.”

Reference: “Translation and replication dynamics of single RNA viruses” by  Sanne Boersma, Huib H. Rabouw, Lucas J. M. Bruurs, Tonja Pavlovic, Arno L. W. van Vliet, Joep Beumer, Hans Clevers, Frank J. M. van Kuppeveld and Marvin E. Tanenbaum, 13 November 2020, Cell.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cell/2020.10.019