As VIRUSES like HIV reproduce inside the body, they masterfully mutate to evade human antibodies created by scientists to fight them. In the process, the virus and antibodies coevolve in a microscopic arms race as they battle throughout the course of an infection. A study by biology research scholar Armita Nourmohammad — working with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania — provides new insight into how antibodies might win that war. Mathematically modeling the complex coevolutionary processes of antibodies and viruses, they found that exposure to a large variety of viral strains early in the infection would help the immune system produce neutralizing antibodies that attack the most important segments of the viral genome. The study, published in PLOS Genetics in July, could help researchers design a vaccine for HIV and other chronic infections.

Peter Arkle

NANOPARTICLES — particles smaller than a ten-thousandth of a millimeter — have amazing properties, including extraordinary strength, flexibility, and conductivity that could revolutionize industries from sporting goods to medical devices. The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has found a way to make them cheaply using plasma, hot ionized gas thousands of degrees in temperature. Using magnetic fields to manipulate the ions in the gas, scientists at the lab have been able to quickly produce nanoparticles at a much faster rate than other processes. PPPL’s new Laboratory for Plasma Nanosynthesis is researching and refining the process.