EXHIBITS: Making Sense of Viruses

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Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1247
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1247d

One hundred years ago, scientists knew next to nothing about viruses, whether killer flu strains or the less fearsome tomato bushy stunt virus, a scourge of the garden. Today we can snap their mugshots, take them apart like old cars, and reengineer their components to make more effective vaccines or tools for molecular biology.

Learn how the field advanced so far, so fast at Viruses: From Structure to Biology, which tracks the evolution of structural virology from the first crystallization of tobacco mosaic virus in 1935 to modern efforts to banish polio. Six chapters relate key milestones, such as deciphering the structure of hemagglutinin, one of the proteins jutting from the surface of the influenza virus. And in 11 interviews, you can read in their own words the stories of pioneers such as Stephen Harrison, who in 1978 was the first to determine the atomic structure of a virus using x-ray diffraction. Molecular biologist and site editor Sondra Schlesinger of Washington University in St. Louis hopes the history will help future virologists appreciate the difficulties faced by lab researchers just a few decades ago. “It's amazing for [students] to see how hard it was to do this work.”


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