IN A science lab at La Trobe in Bendigo a human body cell is lighting up red, green and yellow.
The flourescent dyes coursing through the cell are helping researchers see the proteins vital in the battle against deadly viruses, many of which do not currently have a cure.
La Trobe's Bendigo campus is now home to one of the world's few microscopes capable of peering at a single molecule, allowing Melbourne-based researchers like Ebony Monson take a closer look at infections.
The PhD student is helping map defense mechanisms, tracing the "pathways" cells used to switch anti-viral proteins on.
"Viruses usually have very good ways of shutting down these pathways," Ms Monson said.
The research team's work could help pharmacists develop new drugs and medical strategies that stop viruses shutting down cells' defences - or make anti-viral proteins stronger - she said.
Ms Monson's research team has been able to track those pathways to study a range of infections, including influenza, Zika virus and different types of hepatitis.
It has rarely been able to do so using an instrument 1000 times more powerful that a regular flourescence microscope.
"Some of this technology didn't exist a few years ago," Ms Monson said.
Getting a closer look is giving researchers a fuller picture about what is happening.
"Usually we use two different fluorescent dyes - say, red and green. If proteins are interacting with each other we see an overlap. The dye will appear yellow," Ms Monson said.
"We might see yellow in our (Melbourne) microscope, go up to Bendigo's and find it isn't actually that colour.
"Maybe the proteins are really close but they don't quite touch. Maybe there is another protein that sits between them, which we have not looked up before."
The microscope was hand-built by Bendigo-based biophysicist Donna Whelan to help shed light cancer in body cells.
It is one of only a few located around the world, she said.
"In Melbourne there is maybe one other microscope that would compete with La Trobe's, and that is the one Donna built during her PhD at Monash University," Ms Monson said.
The microscope has been in operation for three months, Dr Whelan said.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.