Photo: DTU Vet

PhD project provides new knowledge about virus 'engine room'

Friday 06 Dec 13
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Contact

Thomas Bruun Rasmussen
Senior Researcher
DTU Vet

Contact

PhD Peter Christian Risager, phageist@gmail.com

 

Supervisors and funding

  • Senior Researcher Thomas Bruun Rasmussen and Professor Graham J. Belsham from the Section of Virology at DTU Vet were Peter Christian Risager’s supervisors.
  • The project was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research—Technology and Production. 

Utilizing the latest virological methods, a PhD student from DTU Vet has identified specific building blocks that are crucial to the capacity of classical swine fever virus (CSFV) to replicate. This may lay the foundations for work to combat CSFV and other related viruses, such as hepatitis C virus and dengue virus which cause important human diseases.

He conducted his trials on CSFV, which causes disease in pigs in many parts of the world and constitutes an ever-present threat to Danish agriculture.

“My research reveals that a few specific changes at amino acid level in the virus’s ‘engine room’ may be crucial to regulating the replication speed, and may also have an effect on the capacity of the virus to cause disease,” explains Peter Christian Risager.

Modifying the virus

Peter Christian Risager achieved his results by combining parts of different virus genomes, from different CSFV strains, together to create what are known as chimeric viruses, and then measuring the capacity of these viruses to replicate in a cell system developed for the purpose. By constructing multiple types of chimeric viruses, it is possible to determine the motifs in the genome that are essential for a given property.

His experiments revealed that if certain amino acids were combined in a specific way, the virus could multiply at a high rate, but if they were combined differently, the replication process slowed significantly. Some viruses could therefore spread very rapidly, while others became very defective due to the mutations.

Broad perspectives

Peter’s findings are relevant in the context of understanding the virus replication mechanism and the interactions between CSFV and the animal cell, and for the future development and improvement of vaccines and new types of anti-viral therapies designed to treat the disease.

In the long term, the research may also be used to develop anti-viral therapy for people, given that CSFV is part of the same family of viruses as those causing dengue fever, yellow fever and hepatitis C.

 

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