Published on 20/01/2023
Aston University creates world first computational reconstruction of a virus in its biological entirety
Segment of reconstructed genome model (red to green to blue), placed over the cryo-EM backbone (white), and its secondary structure.
  • First ever computer reconstruction of a virus, including its complete native genome
  • Will open way for investigating biological processes which can’t currently be fully examined because the genome is missing 
  • Could lead the way to research into an alternative to antibiotics.

An Aston University researcher has created the first ever computer reconstruction of a virus, including its complete native genome.

Although other researchers have created similar reconstructions, this is the first to replicate the exact chemical and 3D structure of a ‘live’ virus.  

The breakthrough could lead the way to research into an alternative to antibiotics, reducing the threat of anti-bacterial resistance.

The research Reconstruction and validation of entire virus model with complete genome from mixed resolution cryo-EM density by Dr Dmitry Nerukh, from the Department of Mathematics in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Aston University is published in the journal Faraday Discussions.

The research was conducted using existing data of virus structures measured via cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM), and computational modelling which took almost three years despite using supercomputers in the UK and Japan.

The breakthrough will open the way for biologists to investigate biological processes which can’t currently be fully examined because the genome is missing in the virus model. 

This includes finding out how a bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria, kills a specific disease-causing bacterium. 

At the moment it is not known how this happens, but this new method of creating more accurate models will open up further research into using bacteriophage to kill specific life-threatening bacteria.

This could lead to more targeted treatment of illnesses which are currently treated by antibiotics, and therefore help to tackle the increasing threat to humans of antibiotic resistance.

Dr Nerukh said: “Up till now no one else had been able to build a native genome model of an entire virus at such detailed (atomistic) level. 

“The ability to study the genome within a virus more clearly is incredibly important. Without the genome it has been impossible to know exactly how a bacteriophage infects a bacterium. 

“This development will now allow help virologists answer questions which previously they couldn’t answer.

“This could lead to targeted treatments to kill bacteria which are dangerous to humans, and to reduce the global problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which are over time becoming more and more serious.”

The team’s approach to the modelling has many other potential applications. One of these is creating computational reconstructions to assist cryo-Electron Microscopy – a technique used to examine life-forms cooled to an extreme temperature.

Notes to editors

Reconstruction and validation of entire virus model with complete genome from mixed resolution cryo-EM density

Vladimir S. Farafonov, Michael Stich and Dmitry Nerukh

Faraday Discussions

DOI 10.1039/d2fd00053a

 

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston University is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

 Aston University is ranked 22 in the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7825 342091 or email: n.jones6@aston.ac.uk

Be first to get the latest news, research and expert comment from Aston
by
following us on Twitter

Need an expert for your story? Browse our expert directory

 

Sue Smith, Head of Press and Communications
    0121 204 3521
    s.p.smith@aston.ac.uk

Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager
    0121 204 5065
    s.cook2@aston.ac.uk

Rebecca Hume, Press and Communications Manager
    0121 204 5159
    r.hume@aston.ac.uk

Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager
  •  07825 342091
    n.jones6@aston.ac.uk

Alternatively, email pr@aston.ac.uk

Press Team

Media Resources

Brexit Directory

The Conversation

Find Experts

Spotlights

Share this Article: