The Invisible, Now Visible: New Technology Can Track Virus Sized Particles

Researchers at Princeton University describe a revolutionary three-dimensional method to capture the transient motion of virus like particles in real time.  Consequently, this new method further elucidates the cellular uptake process.

Visualization of the mechanisms involved in the uptake of viruses is challenging because of their “swift and fast” movement in the cellular environment.  The research published in Nature demonstrates the motion of virus-like particles as sporadic, lacking a fixed destination.  The virus-like particle will collide and bounce off of these large immobile cells until cellular binding with a membrane bound protein which allows uptake of said particle.

Their method entailed modifying nanoparticles—about 1000th the size of a human hair—with dots that emit light and allow a camera to trace their movement.  Furthermore, they linked Tat peptides from the HIV1 virus to help the particle to enter the cell.  By using two cameras the researchers were able to produce a multi-resolution image of both the virus-like particle and its cellular environment.  When these particles were released onto a plate of skin cells, the researchers traced their movement whilst simultaneously illustrating the elusive contour of cell membranes.

The scientist’s research has prodigious implications in understanding the interactions between the cellular environment and viruses as well as providing potential drug delivery mechanisms.  This new method benefits molecular biology on all forefronts by providing an optical edge in scientific research.

To read the article:  click here.

Source:  Kevin Welsher and Haw Yang.  (2014).  “Multi-resolution 3D visualization of the early stages of cellular uptake of peptide-coated nanoparticles.”  Nature nanotechnology.  DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2014.12.

About Jonathan Jackson