New illustrations

Illustration for Olink / Nature Metabolism paper

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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).

Olink PEA illustration by Ann-Louise Bergström
New animations

Elephants and cyanobacteria

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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.

New animations

Coronavirus therapeutic strategies

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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.

 

New animations

2D-animation about RNA-vaccines

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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.

New animations

DNA microarray

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I have – in collaboration with Lasse Folkersen (Lead Scientist at Skt. Hans Hospital in Denmark) – made this animation that describes how to come from a spit sample to genotyping with help from a DNA microarray. (Watch with sound).

The animation has also been placed on the Wikipedia article about DNA array:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_microarray

Where it – in addition to english – can be found with danish, swedish, spanish or chinese speak.

I have – in collaboration with Lasse Folkersen (Lead Scientist at Skt. Hans Hospital in Denmark) – made this animation that describes how to come from a spit sample to genotyping with help from a DNA microarray. (Watch with sound).

The animation has also been placed on the Wikipedia article about DNA array:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_microarray

Where it – in addition to english – can be found with danish, swedish, spanish or chinese speak.

Other

Coronavirus biology

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In addition to making animations, I also draw quite a lot. Here, I tried to capture the proposed mechanism of the novel coronavirus. It came from bats, then probably spread to pangolins and from them to humans. Inkpen and watercolor on paper.

coronavirus drawing ann-louise bergström
New animations

Coronavirus immunoassay

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In a time, where many European countries are taking their first, tentative steps towards re-opening after lockdown, it is becoming more and more important to be able to test if people has already had the COVID-19 infection. Detection of antibodies against the virus (SARS-CoV-2 / nCov-2019) is one of the best measures for this.

Antibodies are large and robust proteins, and their presence in patient blood / plasma can be detected with rather simple methods, where the ability of the antibodies to bind to the virus spikes is utilized. For more details, see this animation I have made. Once again, Frédéric Eghiaian has created the amazing music for this animation.

Knowledge about the body’s antibody response is also important for the development of an efficient and safe vaccine against COVID-19 and treatment options like immunotherapy.

New animations

COVID-19 / nCov-2019 test (RT-PCR)

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We hear a lot about corona-testing these days! Currrently, the most used (and fastest) test is based on an assay, that is named PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).

With this technology, it is possible to detect the presence of COVID-19 in a patient sample by purification and amplification of specific gene sequences from the viral RNA (genetic material). These gene sequences were published by Chinese researchers shortly after the beginning of the outbreak.

This animation describes the principle of a PCR (more specific, a RT-PCR) reaction.

My friend Frédéric Eghiaian was so kind to make the music for this animation.

New animations

Coronavirus / COVID-19 infection mechanism

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Three coronaviruses, originating in animals, have crossed the species barrier to cause deadly pneumonia in humans within the last two decades; SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and now the current pandemic of COVID-19 / nCov-2019 / SARS-CoV-2.

But exactly how does the nCov-2019 infect us? The spikes (that can be seen on all the current illustrations of coronavirus) on its surface act as keys in locks by binding to specific receptors (ACE2) on the surface of our epithelial cells. Watch this animation and learn more. It is based on the recent, scientific literature within the field, but it is my interpretation and some details have been simplified.