This is a brief look at the new annotated atlas of the Epstein-Barr virus, a virus that infects nearly every adult human and is associated with numerous cancers.
As a latent infection, EBV takes up residence in epithelial cells and B cells (the white blood cells that produce antibodies). While in its host cells, EBV forms a sort of minichromosome, which lives alongside human chromosomes, utilizing the native molecular machinery to produce new copies of the EBV virus.
While EBV can exist for decades in human cells without incident, circumstances that allow for an increase in EBV gene activity can turn the cell cancerous, leading to such diseases as B cell lymphoma.
The atlas was designed to help researchers uncover the events that turn EBV-infected cells cancerous, and to aid in designing new therapies to kill EBV-related cancers.