Creepy video shows HIV virus doing its deadly work

Date:9 February 2010

We first encountered this dramatic and slightly disturbing video on the University of Wisconsin’s The Why Files site, which introduced us to Dr Benjamin Chen, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He used a high-tech video microscope to watch HIV passing across virological synapses in human T cells in a lab dish.

High speed video shows the virus moving across a “virological synapse” between two immune cells. As a contact forms between the cell, fluorescent viral protein enters the contact, and the viral material enters the target cells. Viral particles gather near the donor cell’s surface as buds form on the source side of a synapse. After a healthy immune cell moves into position, a batch of virus jumps across the synapse, transferring the infection.

The video was shot by Chen’s collaborators at the Centre for Biophotonics at the University of California at Davis. Studying the footage, Chen triggered a radar gun and clocked the virus at 0,2 to 0,8 microns per second. That may sounds sluggish, but a virus is only 0,1 micron long, so they are moving up to eight lengths per second.

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