Harvard team discovers new ways to study viruses
Because large groups of viruses can self-assemble so quickly, it makes it easier for them to spread and infect a variety of hosts. Better understanding how the self-assembly occurs will help scientists to create better ways of eliminating or preventing the viruses.
"Our goal is to understand how viruses manage to assemble spontaneously, so quickly and so robustly," Yoav Lahini, research associate and former Pappalardo Fellow at MIT, said.
The self-assembly process happens too rapidly and with such small particles that it has been difficult for scientists to study. This is why the Harvard scientists’ creation of a new system is momentous. They have made a system that is able to detect and track viruses the size of nanometers in time scales amounting to sub-milliseconds.
"This research is a step forward in observing and measuring the self-assembly of viruses," Vinothan Manoharan, the Wagner Family Professor of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Physics and leader of the study, said. "Viral infection involves many complex molecular and cellular pathways, but self-assembly is a process that is found in many different viruses. This simple technology, which is cheap, easy and scalable, could provide a new, cost-effective way to study and diagnose viruses. From the point of view of fundamental physics, understanding the self-assembly of a naturally evolved system would be a major milestone in the study of complex systems."