According to a study, the researcher has developed a homemade, high-tech microscope, they have revealed how a cancer-causing virus anchors itself to our DNA. That discovery could pave the way for doctors to cure incurable diseases by flushing out viruses, including HPV and Epstein-Barr, which now permanently embed themselves in our cells.

The reason we can't get rid of these is that they cannot figure out a way to get their DNA out of the nucleus, out of the cell. They depend on this 'tether' to remain anchored to the DNA within our cells and to remain attached even as the cells divide. Now that scientists can understand this vital infrastructure, they can work to disassemble it. Without it,"the virus is going to lose its hold in the body. Bad for the virus, but very good for the patient.

Homemade Microscope

The researchers used the microscope built by fellow investigator M. Mitchell Smith, Ph.D., to reveal the structure of the tether used by a virus called Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). Until now, such tethers have largely eluded scientists because they are so diabolically small, defying even the most high-tech approaches to determining their form. "We're seeing things on the order of 8,000 times smaller than a human hair.

Smith's microscope is nothing like the simple light microscope seen in every high school biology class. It's a stunning marriage of stainless steel and laser beams, looking much like an oversized sci-fi Erector set. It sits on a table that almost fills a small room. It's a set of lasers, a bunch of optics that focus and filter the lasers. Smith explained, gesturing to various components. 

The device has already proved a game-changer, allowing him and Kedes to unveil the viral tether. The researchers in UVA's Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology used fluorescent antibodies to mark individual molecules on the tether and then recorded their location in space. They then combined the resulting images to create an outline of the shape, a bit like mapping a city from thousands of GPS signals.

Further, they suspect that such viruses' tethers may share similarities with the one they revealed. They focus on structures that are vital to the virus that before was below the limits of our standard methods of detection within infected cells.'

To complete their 3D portrait, they combined their results with information drawn from other imaging techniques, such as X-ray crystallography. The result is the complete portrait of the tether ever created. And that information likely will prove vital for cutting the rope on the virus' grappling hook. The researchers envision using the approach for many other stubborn viruses, such as Epstein-Barr (the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis) and HPV (human papillomavirus).