At the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Jun Liu uses a powerful electron microscope to examine E. coli bacteria and the tiny T-7 virus that infects them.
Liu says until now, scientists could only speculate on how this virus injected its genetic material into another cell, because it happens in an instant.
“Before they inject in, they do not have a channel. After they inject in, they actually degrade the channel, so you never have a chance to see it,” Liu said.
But in a collaborative study with other University of Texas colleagues, Liu used the electron microscope to examine quick-frozen solutions full of bacteria and viruses.
“Because when you freeze it, it is kind of like a snapshot that captures some intermediate stage. This is one of the highlights of this study, because we captured this intermediate stage that nobody had seen before,” Liu said.