Animation Expedition – A Virus Attacks a Cell: How Does Infection Begin?
This is the first in a series of postings which will occasionally highlight our Vaccine Makers Project animations.
Click on image to view the animation A Virus Attacks a Cell
Have you seen the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage? It’s based on a story by author Isaac Asimov. In Asimov’s tale, a group of intrepid scientists shrink to the size of blood cells. The goal is to cure a tumor inside someone’s brain.
Theatrical release poster for the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage. (Fair usage rights apply.)
Of course, such a journey will remain in the realm of science fiction. Yet, you can get some idea of what such an adventure might feel like. “How’s that?” you ask. Today, artists and scientists have combined forces to create an amazing view of the miniature world inside our bodies. Here we present an animation that takes you on a “fantastic voyage” to the beginning of infection.
If you’ve ever had influenza (the “flu”) you can now see what it might look like. We begin with a view of a tiny particle–the virus. Lung cells loom large. They make up the landscape through which the virus flies. The virus particle (called a virion) soon settles on the surface of a cell. The cell dwarfs the virion. But size is no defense. The tiny invader has the keys to unlock the cell’s outer surface. The virion has molecules that match others on the cell surface. The virion unlocks the cell surface. It sinks within. And so infection begins.
Check Your Understanding
Assume in the video that the screen size of the virion (the virus particle) is 15 centimeters. An actual influenza virus particle is about 100 nanometers. What is the magnification of the virion shown on the screen?
Click for answer
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