Molecular Beacons: Molecular Imaging For Detecting Human Respiratory Virus In Vivo


The most pervasive and potentially fatal childhood respiratory virus known to medicine is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Recently, scientists have been able to see inside RSV-infected living cells by using a powerful molecular imaging technique: molecular-scale probes – called molecular beacons – that are engineered

oligonucleotides (short sequences of RNA or DNA) shaped like a hairpin with a fluorescent dye molecule on one end and a quencher molecule on the other end; developed by scientists and engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia designed to fluoresce only when they bind to a complementary target – in this case, RSV genomic RNA.

“For the first time, we were able to visualize an important part of the RSV virus — its genome — in live, infected cells,” said Phil Santangelo, a research engineer in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Our molecular beacons attach to the virus and glow inside infected cells as the virus grows, replicates and infects other cells. We can now see that happen in real time in cultures in the lab. That’s very different from how scientists have studied viruses in past; they’ve looked at viruses in fixed (or preserved) cells,” he added. “…. Within the first week of studying human RSV in living cells, I learned something new because I was looking at it live.”

These molecular beacons were originally developed at the Public Health Research Institute in New Jersey in the late 1990s which were initially used for in vitro assays outside cells. But Georgia Tech scientists devised methods for getting the beacons inside the cell without destroying the probe and without changing the cells. This molecular imaging could lead to early diagnosis of this fatal childhood respiratory virus. News and Photo Source: < a href=””>Georgia Tech Research News

About the author: Gloria is a chemist and blogs at Straight From The Doc,The Pharm Voice, and Filipina Soul


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