Using X-Rays To Zap The Zika Virus

on August 03, 2016 at 5:00 PM

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The Zika virus is a growing public health crisis. We don’t yet have a vaccine or drug treatment to combat the spreading problem, but a team of researchers just got a big step closer.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Purdue University used powerful X-rays from the Advanced Photon Source atArgonne National Laboratory. Argonne, located 30 minutes outside Chicago, is one of the Energy Department’s 17 National Labs. Argonne’s research focuses on clean energy, environment, technology and national security, but their world-class tools are useful for all kinds of scientific endeavors, so the lab often opens these facilities to other researchers. The Advanced Photon Source is just one of these tools, called User Facilities, which host tens of thousands of researchers across the National Labs system each year.

In this case, the results have the potential to improve public health. The research team revealed the molecular structure of a protein that is key to reproduction of the Zika virus and its interaction with human hosts. The researchers also identified what makes Zika different from other mosquito-borne viruses in the same family, including chicken dengue, West Nile and yellow fever. Understanding those differences will help researchers focus their efforts on the areas most likely to be effective targets for drugs or vaccines.

You can learn more details about the research here.