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.
A while ago, I helped the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, ASI (an NGO working to encourage and support the discipline of immunology) with this animation about how a vaccine works. Watch it here or on the ASI homepage, where it has recently been added to:
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:
Where it – in addition to english – can be found with danish, swedish, spanish or chinese speak.
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.
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.