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Building With Viruses

December 1, 2011

Researchers have turned viruses into molecular building blocks.



Building with viruses.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Kids can make lots of things out of blocks, depending on how they’re arranged.  Now, scientists at the University of California at Berkeley are building things out of viruses.  Bioengineer Seung-Wuk Lee and his colleagues use a virus that resembles collagen fibers found in eyes, bones, and skin.  They dip a sheet of glass into a virus-filled liquid – and can influence exactly how the viruses arrange themselves on the glass.

SEUNG-WUK LEE (University of California, Berkeley):

We can tune the concentration of the viruses, and speed of the pulling rate, so that we can closely begin to mimic the structures observed in nature.


Like real collagen, the fiber-like viruses assemble into different kinds of larger building blocks, which can be used to make materials with very different properties.  In the future, the technique could be used not only in medicine, but also in manufacturing.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.