Viral Payload: A rhabdovirus may be 150,000 times smaller than a 9 mm bullet, but it is just as deadly. A single strand of RNA self-assembles with a helical array of proteins, viewed in this 3D animation set to Mozart’s piano sonata in C-Major http://goo.gl/sRiwx. These viruses infect both plants and animals, and include the rabies causing virus that is transmitted to humans by bites. Watch a 3D model of a Rabies virus: http://goo.gl/z3Qx1
Silver Bullet? Researchers hope to exploit the cell-invading ability of viruses to destroy cancer cells. One favorite is the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) that infects horses and cattle, but causes only mild flu like symptoms in humans. Genetically crippled (“attenuated”) forms of VSV are safer to use and preferentially infect cancer cells by exploiting their altered signaling pathways. These oncolytic viruses hold the promise of a self-replicating biotherapy.
Image: Cryo-electron microscope image of a rhabdovirus.
Ref: Self-organization of the vesicular stomatitis virus nucleocapsid into a bullet shape. Desfosses et al., 2013 Nat. Commun . http://goo.gl/xULA0