A New Way to Counter Flu Viruses

Flu virus blocked by empty Q-beta phage carrying faux lung sugars

With COVID spread as daily news, we looked for hopeful news highlighting potential ways to counter flu virus. We found many novel approaches to combatting flu virus and chose to illustrate a Berlin, Germany study where researchers at FMP and Humboldt University are collaborating to research avian flu / seasonal flu treatment options.
When researchers noted that strong multiple bonds formed between flu virus and lung cell tissue, they focused on this bond as a potential way to block the virus from infecting lung cells.
  The next step was to create a faux lung cell from an empty Q-beta bacteriophage and cover the phage surface with the same sugar molecules (sialic acid) found on lung cell surface to which viruses attach. The deception worked. Influenza viruses formed tight bonds to faux lung cell sugars, bonds so strong that influenza viruses could not detach to infect actual lung cells.
The study has since been broadened to include coronavirus. The study’s results were published in a recent article in Nature Nanotechnology:  “Phage Capsid Nanoparticles with Defined Ligand Arrangement Block Influenza Virus Entry.”

Coronavirus March/April

“Related Corona Viruses,” depicts three Coronaviruses

-MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) virus
-SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus
-and, a SARS virus variant, SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease called COVID-19.

Researchers worldwide are exploring multiple strategies to find a COVID-19 vaccine. One approach is to repurpose existing SARS of MERS Corona virus vaccines, as well as vaccines for other viruses.  If proven effective for COVID-19, a repurposed vaccine offers the shortest route a useful treatment because it already has FDA approval. And there are novel approaches like the one below.

Coronavirus blocked from infecting lung cells

While collaborating in search of treatment options for avian flu and seasonal flu, researchers in Berlin, Germany at FMP and Humboldt University, developed a way to virtually stop the flu virus from infecting lung cells. 

Researchers noted the strong multiple bonds between a lung cell and an influenza virus, and then keyed on that bond as a potential way to halt viruses from infecting lung cells.

Investigators created an empty phage1 shell and chemically attached the same sugar molecules found on the surface of lung cells to which flu cells attach. 

The sugar molecules lure the influenza virus into attaching to the faux lung cell. The strong bond between the two prevents the flu virus from attaching to actual lung tissue.

Results of this study can be found in a recent article in Nature Nanotechnology:  “Phage Capsid Nanoparticles with Defined Ligand Arrangement Block Influenza Virus Entry.”
The study has now broadened to include coronavirus.
1Q-beta phage (bacteriophage)
Sialic acid


Coronavirus, a Global Health Emergency.


Named for the crownlike spiky projections surrounding the virus
• 17,000+ human cases worldwide as of 2-3-2020
• Upper respiratory illness in chickens, bats, dogs, cats, ferrets, camels, cattle
• Enteric illness in cattle and pigs
• 7 types of Coronavirus infect people
Primarily causes mild to moderate upper respiratory symptoms
Also includes severe respiratory problems– SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) & MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome)
• How Spread:
Through air-coughing, sneezing
By contact – touching infected surfaces (Doorknobs) & personal contact, e.g.,
shaking hands
The Coronavirus above is a derivative work – that is, we revised an existing 3D Coronavirus model in our personal archives to create the new graphic. Reusing/revising existing 3D models saves time and money.


CRISPR Cas9 Locating a Gene Sequence

CRISPR is associated with a technique first recognized as a bacterial defense against viral infection.
•           Compares a DNA sequence to a target RNA sequence
•           Edits the DNA by removing or replacing the matching gene sequence
Applications include:
•           Vaccine development
•           Targeting / modifying DNA “typos” to treat genetic disease, 
                        e.g. vision defects
•           Promising treatment & disease prevention, e.g. cancer, heart disease,
                        mental illness, HIV, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Worldwide Measles Outbreak Continues

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease spread from person to person. There is no treatment or cure for measles, but vaccine is 97% effective in preventing the disease.

The 3D illustration depicts measles virus outside / inside a host cell. Knobby structures on the virus surface are two surface proteins that aid in binding and invading a host cell.

Measles:  enveloped single strand RNA virus with 1
-serotype: Family:paramyxoviridaeGenus: morbillivirus
-humans:  the only natural host of measles virus
-contagious disease typically spread by coughing, sneezing
-virus enters respiratory system, then spreads throughout the body
-virus can spread before symptoms appear
-virus can live outside human body for 2 hrs
-can cause serious health complications

Molecular View: Gut Microflora Imbalance Damages Cell

We describe what we do as “visualizing the invisible. Making the abstract clear.” 

Most of our work is on the cellular level, but we’ve noticed an increased interest in illustrations on a molecular level. 

Changing magnification level changes the elements in a graphic. 

Cellular level visual:  includes cells on gut wall covered by finger-like projections (villi) and microvilli on cells’ villi surface.

Molecular level visual:  close up of Brush Borders on Microvilli that cover one cell’s surface. Villi not shown.

Our first 3D sample of the gut biome –molecular level, depicting one cell in an out-of-balance gut microbiome due to food poisoning. Unchecked, bacterium Clostridium perfingens damages microvilli the cell’s walls and causes contents to leak.

Using Visuals

iPhone Gallery

Portable Gallery

For years, I was lax at keeping my cell phone charged and available when attending social gatherings. That doesn’t happen any more. Now I have an iPhone gallery of illustrations so anyone can see what we do when they ask about our company. That principal works for everyone.

Visuals (3D illustrations & animations) bridge language barriers and levels of technical experience in a way that words alone cannot. Visuals make messages memorable and easier to understand.

If you haven’t done so, check our online gallery. The gallery is a compilation of sample illustrations that cover a variety of biological topics and show technical expertise. Email or give us a call if you’d like to discuss your project.

Gut Microbiome Imbalance

Gut Microbiome Imbalance

Gut Microbiome Imbalance

Gut Microbiome Imbalance
This illustration is one of three illustrations depicting differences between balance / imbalance in gut “bugs.” It shows a bacterial infection in colon tissue caused by a microbiome imbalance. The imbalance reduces the clear slimy layer (butyrate) covering villi. Without a solid butyrate layer, bacteria invade the exposed tissue between villi. The body’s immune system responds and sends red blood cells, T-cells, and macrophages to the area to fight the pathogens.

The legend inset shows C. difficile and E. coli bacteria along with T-cell and macrophage that respond to infection.

At some point, the illustration may be a starting point for an animation.