I have made an animated explainer about the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 mutations and variants. SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA-virus and these typically have high mutation rates, which can lead to changes in the spike protein of the virus. Learn more by watching.
The second wave of COVID-19 has been really hard to almost all of Europe. Here is an animated map / data visualization showing the weekly confirmed cases of COVID-19 (relative to population size) as both heigth of country and with heat map colors. See more data visualization here.
Moving Science now also offers data-visualizations of real-world data. Transforming for instance data parameters that change over time into 3D-object sizes results in powerful visual infographics. See for example this one showing the COVID-19 cases (both as absolute numbers and as normalized to inhabitants in the different municipalities) in Denmark. See more examples here
I have recently made some illustrations for Muna Therapeutics. Here is one of them, showing neurons and microglia in a healthy and a diseased brain.
At October 7th, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the Nobel Prize in chemistry 2020 was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their development of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for precise genome editing. Read the press release here.
I have made a short, animated explainer about what CRISPR/Cas9 is, watch it here.
I have created this illustration for Lasse Folkersen and Olink Proteomics. It is an illustration of the Olink technology named PEA, where specific antibodies are bound to DNA and function as a signaling system for detection of specific proteins. The technology by Olink Proteomics (www.olink.com/scallop-nature-metabolism/#) was used by Lasse Folkersen et al. in this paper published in Nature Metabolism (www.nature.com/articles/s42255-020-00287-2).
This summer, the summer of 2020, scary pictures of hundreds of dead elephants in the Okavango-delta in Botswana could be seen. For a long time, it was a mystery what had caused their death. A disease? Or had someone poisoned them?
Last week, the answer came. The elephants’ drinking water was contaminated with cyanotoxins produced by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms. The blooms were probably caused by a warmer climate and soil over-fertilization. Elephants drink a lot of water why especially they were the ’victims’ in this case.
Cyanobacteria are unpopular organisms, but in fact they are very important for the Earth, in that they are the greatest contributors to atmospheric oxygen due to their photosynthesis. They are neither really algae or bacteria, but rather something in between. They ‘invented’ photosynthesis, as they were the first organisms to make photosynthesis – 2.4 billion years ago. This led to the “great oxygenation” event, where the content of oxygen in the atmosphere increased dramatically and fundamentally changed the living conditions for all types of life on Earth.
In addition to making photosynthesis, they produce cyanotoxins – as a defense mechanism. Luckily, the population of elephants in the Okavango is large and thus the deaths – so far – do not represent a great catastrophe. And the blooms of cyanobacteria? They stopped by the end of the summer as temperatures dropped.
Watch my animation about it here.
The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / nCov-2019) still holds the World in its grip and the pandemic is far from over. In addition to strategies that try to contain or to eliminate the disease, it is also important to develop treatment options for severely diseased people.
The coronaviruses have an Achilles heel – it is the RdRP-enzyme (RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase), which is the first virus protein being made after infection of our cells. This enzyme is critically needed for the virus to replicate its RNA. By the use of so-called nucleotide / nucleoside analogues, this process can however be tricked. A compound like Remdesivir is – in the body – being converted into an analogue of the nucleotide adenosine. It inserts instead of andenosine in the emerging RNA-chain which leads to termination of the replication process shortly after.
The result is thus defective/unfunctional RNA, which in turn leads to inhibition of the virus replication process. Watch this animation to see it all visualized. Thanks to Frédéric Eghiaian, who kindly made the music for this animation.
There is currently an international race on the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2. One of the approaches is to use RNA-vaccines for this instead of traditional vaccines. But what is actually the difference between traditional vaccines and RNA-vaccines? I have tried to explain that in this short 2D-animation. I am not so experienced in 2D-animation yet – but I am trying to learn!
In RNA-vaccines, the trick is to inject RNA-sequences from the virus, that codes for critial virus proteins, especially the spike proteins. The RNA can then be taken up (in principle by any cell!) and there get translated by the cellular ribosomes (just like the virus does itself). Thus, the cells start expressing virus proteins. These can then either be expressed on the surface of the cell – be secreted from the cell – or be degraded in the cell by the proteasome and get presented on the surface together with MHC-molecules. All in all, the theory is that this will lead to a much stronger and broader immune response as many more pathways and cells are activated.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is an RNA-virus with a very large genome (in general, coronaviruses have large genomes). This means that it mutates more frequently, but one advantage of the RNA-vaccines in relation to this is that this is very easy to combat, as the injected RNA-strand can rapidly be changed accordingly. With traditional vaccines, it is much more complicated and time-demanding to adjust to mutations.