17 March 2014
The coloured trace snaking across this picture is a ‘comet tail’. Not the kind that hurtles through space, but something on a much smaller scale. Using powerful microscopes and computer analysis, an international team of researchers has been spying on the trail left behind a tiny rod-shaped virus, called a baculovirus, as it moves through the sticky goo inside cells. It’s made up of stiff, spiky fibres called actin filaments although, sadly, not rainbow-coloured in real life. These filaments are produced by the virus to help propel it through the stringy gloop inside a cell, represented by the grey tendrils. Similar trails appear behind other types of viruses and bacteria, suggesting that they use the same type of movement as they infect and move through cells. Perhaps these comet tails could point the way towards entirely new approaches for tackling infectious diseases.
Written by Kat Arney