New Year's Resolutions

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What a good way to start 2019: pubmed has reliably informed me that our methods article on using Super-Resolution microscopy to study HCV has just been published. Our work can be found alongside contributions from the great and good of HCV research in the latest volume of Methods in Molecular Biology, edited by Mansun Law. A browse through the contents section makes it clear that this book will be an invaluable resource for HCV research in the coming years: everything is covered from bioinformatics to immunology.

For our part, we provided detailed step-by-step instructions for performing state-of-the-art super-resolution microscopy of infected cells. I wrote the article with Pedro and Caron from Ricardo Henriques’ Lab, who provided their (seriously impressive) microscopy expertise. The approach we outlined uses the SRRF (pronounced ‘surf’) algorithm developed by the Henriques lab; this is particularly attractive as it is able to extract super-resolution images even with comparatively basic microscopes. Also, the protocol we provide is not limited to HCV, so can be applied to lots of biological systems; why don’t you give it a try.

Short Sighted Viruses?

Short sighted viruses?

Viruses are masters of evolution, allowing them to outstrip immune responses and rapidly adapt to new hosts. This is one of the secrets of their success. However, this genetic plasticity may, in some cases, pose a problem.

Some viruses, such as HIV and HCV, establish lifelong infections and many years may pass before they have the opportunity to transmit to a new host. In this situation, can a virus become too adapted to the specific environment of their current host?

I was introduced to this concept by Katrina Lythgoe and, together with Oliver Pybus and Andy Gardner, we explored it in a recent Trends in Microbiology article

We discuss the various scenarios in which viruses may become 'short sighted'; being so well adapted to one host that they become a 'rusty' at transmitting to new hosts. We also propose the possible mechanisms viruses may have to avoid this short-sightedness.

I really enjoyed collaborating with Katrina to put this article together. It proved to be quite a mental workout (evolutionary biology is not in my comfort zone), but the writing process has given me a different perspective on persistent viral infections and how the host environment may shape their evolution.

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust, Royal Society, The Natural Environment Research Council and The European Research Council

Image courtesy of Frances Cacino