UWM scientists develop new way to study viruses using 3-D movie

Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 12:03:15-04

Some UW-Milwaukee scientists are about to publish a paper which could get international attention. The researchers have developed a new way to study viruses.

It’s a first-of-its-kind 3-D movie created by collaborative research led by our own local university.

The methodology required incredibly powerful computers -- and creative thinking by scientists -- who essentially took tens of thousands of still pictures and reordered them into an animation.

UWM Physics Researcher Jeremy Copperman described how the team used an amazing new technology based in California. “The most powerful x-ray laser in the world and using that to image a single virus at a time.  This is a new technique which is in its infancy,” he explained.

It’s almost like a flipbook that took 2 years to create.

UWM Physics Associate Professor, Peter Schwander claims it’s “the first time we were able to basically see the motions of such a virus while it's infecting the host cell.”

The implications of such an achievement are enormous, and with additional research over time, could lead to dramatic improvements in treatment for a wide variety of illnesses.

“To make a drug that can cure somebody without making them so sick that the drug is worse than the disease, you have to be able to see things in incredible detail, and so that’s what this can lead to someday,” said Copperman.

“I think it’s an important step. Of course, how important it will be we don’t know now,” added Schwander.

UW-Milwaukee is ranked as one of the nation’s 115 top research universities.  This achievement will likely reinforce that reputation even more.