An international team of physicists have been able to reconstruct the first ever 3-D image of individual virus particles by tweaking the X-ray diffraction technique of nanocrystallography1

Cleverly bypassing the tedious procedure of crystallizing individual particles, the researchers targeted the virus (Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus) with high-energy pulses (70 fs duration) from an X-ray free electron laser. The X-rays scattered from the virus bodies, creating a 2D diffraction pattern.
Using 200 such different patterns and a mathematical algorithm to solve the problem of particle orientation, a single 3D electron density image was produced.

A 3D image of 125 nm spatial resolution was obtained for the mimivirus (450nm across)

It may now be possible to map the structure of deadly infectious viruses like HIV and other more common viruses like influenza and herpes. This knowledge will help researchers come up with a targeted cure based on the structure of the viruses.

1Nano-crystallography is a process where several identical nano-particles are first incorporated into a crystal and then subjected to X-ray diffraction techniques.

Read full research on Physical Review Letters
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