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Instant virus: just add RNA.

Viruses are such primitive things that many scientists don't consider them alive. They cannot reproduce on their own; instead, they must hijack the reproductive machinery of living cells. Because of this shortcoming, virologists must grow their research subjects in dishes lined with cultured cells.

Now, scientists have devised a cell-free technique for growing tens of thousands of polio viruses at a time. In the Dec. 13 Science, they say the new process will allow insights into the life cycles of many types of viruses and will yield a faster and easier way to screen potential antiviral drugs.

The researchers, led by Akhteruzzaman Molla from he State University of New York at Stony Brook, isolated RNA from polio viruses and added this genetic material to a slurry of human cells that they had previously put through a blender and treated with several chemicals. The mixture yielded intact polio viruses that could go on to infect other cells, they report.

"This is the first time researchers have synthesized infectious viruses in a test tube," Molla asserts. He says his team hopes to use the process to mass-produce other disease-causing viruses.
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Title Annotation:ribonucleic acid
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 14, 1991
Words:188
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