For the first time researchers have developed a 3D herpes infection model - raising hope for the development of effective treatments of the viral infection.
Active ingredients and new treatments can be reliably tested with this new model and animal tests could soon be a thing of the past.
"About 90 percent of the world's population carry it in them all their lives, once infected, and become sick again in stress situations," Anke Burger-Kentischer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, said.
The 3D herpes infection model created by Burger-Kentischer together with her team and the cell systems department makes it possible for the first time to integrate the complicated dormant stage of the virus into a model of the skin.
To date the skin models used for drug testing and to detect the virus have been very simple and unable to simulate the dormancy state of the virus.
"We have integrated a neuronal cell line into the certified skin model of the IGB and are able to detect this latency stage for the first time," Burger-Kentischer said.
Just like in the human nerve cells, the particles of the virus itself cannot be seen; only the presence of its DNA can be proven by means of a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) analysis," Burger-Kentischer added.