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To Spread, Nervous System Viruses Sabotage Cell, Hijack Transportation

Herpes and other viruses that attack the nervous system may thrive by disrupting cell function in order to hijack a neuron's internal transportation network and spread to other cells.

Princeton University researchers made the first observation in neurons that common strains of the herpes virus indirectly take control of a cell's mitochondria, the mobile organelles that regulate a cell's energy supply, communication with other cells, and self-destruction response to infection. The team reports in the journal Cell Host and Microbe that viral infection elevates neuron activity, as well as the cell's level of calcium -- a key chemical in cell communication -- and brings mitochondrial motion to a halt in the cell's axon, which connects to and allows communication with other neurons.

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