01/17/2013 - "Flu viruses can tell time. Sort of. And the viral clock-watching could provide a new way to fight the flu.
A study in Cell Reports describes how researchers tapped into the flu's internal clock as they search for ways to keep the virus from spreading.
Flu viruses hijack the machinery inside host cells to replicate. The theft is a complicated process that takes time. A virus enters the nucleus of the cell, copies itself thousands of times and then breaks out before the immune system attacks. Every minute counts.
'I like to equate it to a bank robber who knows that no matter what he does, he's going to set off some alarm,' says Benjamin tenOever, a virologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine who led the research. 'In anticipation of that, he times what the police response is to get from the station to the bank.'
While replicating, the virus directs the cell to produce a protein that the virus needs to exit. The protein level serves as a kind of hourglass for the flu. After about eight hours in the cell, the virus has enough to skedaddle and leaves."
Read the full article, Scientists Try to Thwart Virus By Resetting Its Clock, on the NPR website.