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Viral Armor

July 25, 2017

Scientists learn new tricks from a heat-loving virus.



A computer-generated graphic of the virus’ envelope. Its unusual structure, never before seen in nature, could let scientists develop super-durable materials and better treat disease. (Courtesy the study authors/eLife)


Viral armor. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some of the toughest, most impervious packaging in the world has been developed by nature, according to University of Virginia biochemist Edward Egelman. For example, there’s a virus called AVF1 that’s protected by a membrane that allows it to live in acidic hot springs, at temperatures of more than 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, in the journal eLife, Egelman and his colleagues describe the structure of the viral coating.

EDWARD EGELMAN (University of Virginia):

This membrane is half the thickness or less of all the existing membranes, but can withstand these incredible conditions, of nearly boiling acid, harsh detergents or other materials.


The researchers note that this sort of membrane structure has never been seen before, and could inspire new materials for clothing, armor, buildings and biomedical devices.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon