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

“Curiouser and Curiouser”*


DNA segment

DNA segment unwound in order to be read

Our illustration at right, “Gene Regulated Transcription,” appeared in last year’s Medical Illustration SourceBook. Briefly, the illustration shows an unwound segment of DNA made available for use as a blueprint to create, e.g., cell membranes, enzymes, hormones, etc.
I loved the illustration but wasn’t keen on submitting it to the SourceBook– the science behind the illustration is complicated, complex, and far-removed from our everyday experiences.
Now there is a book by Pulitzer Prize winning science reporter / author, Amy Ellis Nutt, that connects the world of genes and DNA to people in the world around us. Becoming Nicole is the true story of two identical twin boys who had obvious differences in gender identification from an early age. Identical twins with identical DNA, but variation in genetic blueprint reading resulted in twins that are no longer identical.

*Lewis Carroll from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

New Perspective

Our workday starts like it does for many people, a quick meeting over coffee to discuss what we’re working on today, what needs to be done next. The rest of the day, Don and I typically work alone. Not action-packed, but what is needed to get technical projects right.
Last week was different. We attended a large international trade show. It was fantastic to be out of the office for a few days–seeing people we knew, meeting others we didn’t, learning something from everyone.
Visiting booths, listening to company reps, reading product literature, talking to other attendees was both exhausting and energizing. We have a better understanding of current industry trends and the changing landscape for scientific / biotech companies: more technical content, increasing international presence, efforts to widen market reach to more diverse audiences. We’ll try to incorporate last week’s experiences as we’re back working on projects.

Size Matters

I mentioned earlier that we are a small company. That’s by choice. We find it’s easier and more satisfying to concentrate on doing work we want to do in the biological sciences. It also happens to be a good model for our business.

When clients come to us, they work with Don, a 3D illustrator / animator accustomed to working with technical content discussions with subject matter experts. Don translates scientific / biological discoveries into 3D illustrations / animations that explain why those findings are important to a larger audience. For example, a client’s product may have a mode of action that works faster and / or is more effective. Our illustrations / animations are visual reminder of our client’s significant investment in company & product branding, R & D, technical service.