Breakthrough in monkeypox virus study unveils replication secrets

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10th February 2024 – (Beijing) Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have, for the first time, elucidated the DNA replication mechanism of the monkeypox virus, a critical step that paves the way for the development of targeted antiviral treatments.

The study of monkeypox—a zoonotic ailment caused by the virus of the same name which has afflicted over 92,000 individuals globally—has reached a pivotal juncture. Understanding the virus’s DNA replication, an intricate process facilitated by a self-encoded enzyme complex, has been a scientific conundrum until now.

At the helm of this groundbreaking research is Gao Fu, an esteemed academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Gao’s team has pioneered the use of advanced electron cryo-microscopy, utilizing a graphene grid to capture the high-resolution three-dimensional structure of the monkeypox virus polymerase enzyme complex during replication. This innovative approach has allowed them to visualize and comprehend the complex’s intricate workings.

The implications of this discovery are profound. With a clearer understanding of how the monkeypox virus replicates its genome—a process crucial to its survival and proliferation—researchers can now embark on the journey to design and develop antiviral drugs that could effectively disrupt this mechanism.

The research community has heralded this study as a significant stride forward. The findings not only deepen our grasp of the genomic replication of the monkeypox virus but also provide a foundational structural basis for the next generation of antiviral drug research.