How Do Viruses Recognize a Target Cell?

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This activity demonstrates the specificity of viral vectors for target cells in gene therapy delivery methods using two approaches: 1) STYROFOAM® models demonstrate viral ligand binding to receptor proteins on the surface of target cells; 2) Learners use paper models of viruses and cells to find the appropriate match between viral ligands and cell receptors.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Viruses and Bacteria
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
      • Genetic Engineering
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Medicine
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Carillo, Alayne ; Turner, Vicki ; Stark, Louisa ; Malone, Molly ; Limson, Mel ; Starr, Harmony

Source Collection

  • Teach.Genetics


  • All rights reserved, University of Utah, 2002

Funding Source:

  • Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, 1 R25 RR16291-01