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Virus transmission: new animation video gives insight Influenza viruses

How can an Influenza virus transfer from animal to human, while the molecules on which they ‘land’ at the cell surface, are different? For finding this out, researchers of the University of Twente developed a sensor chip that mimicks the cell surface and has an increasing number of binding sites along the way. The virus ‘rolls’ across the surface until the binding is strong enough. For visualizing and better understanding of the mechanisms involved, the researchers created an animation video, together with Dutch veterinary lab Royal GD.

Influenza viruses luke H5N8 that is rapidly emerging now, mainly come from wild birds. In many cases, the step towards humans isn’t made, but of course there are epidemics and even pandemics caused by a bird flu virus. The zoonosis, transfer from wild animal to human, is often indirect. Chickens or pigs, held in large numbers, can accelerate the transfer.

Enough sugars to stick 

Still, looking at the sugars on the respective cell surfaces of animal and human, are not the same. It is these sugars that the wellknown spikes on the virus surface conncect to – they are proteins. To find out the characteristics of the binding, the UT researchers developed a method called Multivalent Affinitiy Profiling. They developed a special fluidic chip that has a varying concentration of sugars. A virus could bind to only one sugar molecule, but it will ’look around’ if it can rapidly find a few more, to strengthen the bon, encapsulate and do its damaging work. Aren’t there enough sugars nearby, the binding will be unsuccessful: the virus may leave the surface or start rolling along in het direction of the higher concentrations of sugars. This method has now been visualized in an animation video for gaining better insight in zoonosis. It is made specifically for understanding Influenza A viruses, but we can also learn more about corona and other types of viruses.


The animation is bases on years of scientific work by the Molecular Nanofabrication group of Prof Jurriaan Huskens, together with a multidisciplinary team of nanotechnologists, virologists and drug specialists. The most recent publication is ‘Multivalent Affinity Profiling: direct visualization of the superselective binding of Influenza viruses’ in ACS Nano, of the American Chemical Society (online 12 May 2021). First author of this paper is Dr Nico Overeem, and his work already led to this earlier press release. Nico Overeem successfully defended his PhD thesis on this, recently. He is now partly employed at the University of Twente and partly at the veterinary laboratory Royal GD in Deventer (NL). The animation was jointly prepared and realized by DEMCON Nymus 3D.

ir. W.R. van der Veen (Wiebe)
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