UW Researchers Use Astronomy to Follow Cancer-Causing Virus
Madison, Wisconsin - Imagine a virus that causes half of all Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the United States and a common childhood cancer in Africa called Burkitt's lymphoma. Add the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 90 percent of adults are already infected.
While Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), a type of herpes virus that also causes infectious mononucleosis, infects most people without causing disease, it can wreak havoc for those with a compromised immune system.
The research team has found a way to use the tools of a far different scientific field - astronomy - to do just that.
Just as vaccines for human papilloma virus (HPV) can prevent infections which cause cervical cancer, an Epstein-Barr Virus therapy or vaccine could treat or even prevent the both the “kissing disease” and an estimated 200,000 new cases of cancer each year.
By studying how Epstein-Barr Virus
Dinner Conversation Sparks Idea for New Technique
Unlike some viruses, EBV uses the host cell’s own reproductive process to its advantage, passing on viral DNA to daughter cells instead of destroying the host.
“The kinds of experiments we’ve done before are all biochemical, but that meant we were looking at average events over many cells,” said Bill Sugden, professor of oncology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and a researcher at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. “We can measure EBV
To visually follow a single cell through a microscope, a completely new technique was required because prolonged UV light will damage, disrupt and eventually kill exposed cells.
Dinner conversation at home eventually led to the creation of this new technique. Arthur Sugden, Bill’s son who now is a neuroscience graduate student at Brown University, did undergraduate work in astronomy, a field quite comfortable with making discoveries using the very dim light of stars trillions of miles away.
The study’s first author Ya-Fang Chiu - a postdoctoral researcher at McArdle - Arthur, and Bill created their own computer software to make sense of thousands of low-light images. Each cell was photographed 86 times per hour for 70 hours to visually track the infected cell. Cells were exposed to a dim light source for between five and 50 milliseconds per image.
“What we’ve done is make it possible to trace viral
Instead of using histones, a protein that helps wrap cellular
Sugden’s lab group at McArdle continues to explore the processes necessary for proper
The lab is developing assays to allow screening for small-molecule inhibitors of a protein McArdle scientists have proven to be essential in keeping the viral
“We’ve learned how to inhibit the synthesis and maintenance of that viral
Date Published: 01/31/2014