Zika virus is an unexpected new threat to mankind, that appeared suddenly. seemingly out of nowhere. Data on this virus is still very limited. Nevertheless, studio experts at Biomedical Imaging Visual Science have created a 3D-model of the virus Zika at atomic resolution.
Founder of Studio Visual Science Ivan Konstantinov and scientific consultant of the project Yury Stefanov answered questions related to their work. Excerpt of the interview, in my translation, is below. The entire article, in Russian, is here.
What is needed in order to create a model of the virus with such amazing level of detail?
— The development involves several steps. We begin with an overview, analysis and systematization of the available scientific information on the structure of the virus. It is important to understand what is known about the size and morphology of the particles, the types of proteins and other molecules included therein, the number, structure and interaction. There is often necessary to consult with structural virologists who deal with this particular virus directly. Moreover, we often use data cryoelectron microscopy and 3D-reconstruction of structures on its basis. This is a very powerful tool. Still, Zika virus only fairly recently become the subject of scientific interest. The reason was an epidemic caused by Zika and its previously unheard of consequence — microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers. Do you have enough data for a detailed Zika model?
— At this time, Zika virus is still poorly researched from the structural point of view. However, many of Zika “relatives” such as Dengue virus, for instance, is rather well researched.on the basis of which data can be modeled with good reliability Zika virus proteins. In such situations, particularly in demand possibilities of Biomedical Imaging and Modeling.Is it possible to somehow verify that your model does, indeed, reflect the actual structure of the virus?
— Our models are scientific surveys carried out in graphical form. The more information is accumulated by scientists — the more accurate and more complete is our model. As soon as new data become available, our models will be updated, thus creating new versions. Are you planning to publish the results of you work in scientific magazines? After all, by the look of them, your results are quite impressive.
— Thus far, what we have is a scientific overview rather than an independent study. The ultimate goal of a solid scientific work is solid practical result. In the case of viruses, for instance, such result would be a study of the interaction of viral proteins with ligands that might become a potential drug to conquer the virus. (In biochemistry and pharmacology, a ligand is a substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose. VG)
How long, time-wise, it takes you to develop a single model of virus?
— Time depends on many factors. There are small and simple viruses that can be visualized and modeled in two or three weeks. But then there are huge and very sophisticated ones, of which very little is known from the structural point of view. It is difficult to predict the length of time it takes to model them.
Visual Science is an award-winning scientific design studio that creates scientifically accurate and eye-catching 3D models, illustrations and animations for pharmaceutical, medical device, biotech, and nanotechnology companies, as well as scientific institutions, laboratories, educational organizations, museums, publishing and advertising agencies around the world. Interesting site, in English, for those who likes visuals.