Scientists’ work featured on the cover of Microscopy & Analysis

Deborah F. Kelly, Ph.D.

Deborah F. Kelly, Ph.D.

Collaborative work by two assistant professors at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute was featured on the cover of the scientific magazine Microscopy & Analysis.

Deborah Kelly, structural biologist, and Sarah McDonald, a virologist, worked together to visualize rotavirus in unprecedented detail. Rotavirus infects every child under the age of five. If left untreated, the virus causes potentially diarrhea and dehydration.

The virus is made up of three layers, the outermost of which sheds upon infecting cells. The inner workings of the virus were unclear before McDonald and Kelly embarked on this imaging project.

The researchers partnered with the company Protochips, Inc. Samples of the virus were captured and frozen on C-flat grids made by Protochips. The scientists used then used cryo-electron microscopy to image the samples at a high resolution. According to the magazine, the uniform flatness of the grids allowed the scientists to image far more rotavirus particles than traditional grids.

Once enough samples were imaged, the researchers used software called RELION to create three-dimensional reconstructions of the rotavirus at different stages of activity. These reconstructed particles were showcased on the cover of the magazine.

The imaging results aided McDonald as she pushes to better understand exactly how rotavirus replicates and packages its genetic material, while Kelly continues to improve and develop scientific imaging techniques.