Aston University Creates 1 of the World’s First Computational Reconstructions of a Virus in Its Biological Entirety

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An Aston University researcher has created one of the first-ever computer reconstructions 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.

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