Although it could easily be mistaken for a work of art, this image is actually showing you a sample of human immune cells (blue), some of which are invested with the Zika virus (red). The virus affects many different cells, but how it damages and kills them isn’t clear. Researchers recently developed a new method to label Zika-infected immune cells. By separating infected from uninfected cells in the same sample, the team can compare the two directly and by looking at the differences, understand what the virus is doing. The technique provides a comprehensive account of the effect Zika is having on immune cells, in particular how it prevents them from activating certain genes that would enhance the body’s immune defence. In future, this method could be applied to tag cells infected with other viruses.
Written by Gaëlle Coullon
- Image from UC San Diego Health
- Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in PNAS, August 2018