ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Fragile flu, siliciferous smallpox

A virus has a relatively easy time replicating itself. It's just a matter of hijacking a cell to generate the necessary components and in minutes, the capsid shell proteins self-assemble around a coil of viral genome. But for the glassblowers working with British artist linkurl:Luke Jerram;http://www.lukejerram.com/projects/glass_microbiology replicating a virus wasn't so easy.Luke Jerram holding his swineflu sculptureImage: The Wellcome Trust Jerram and his assistants created glass genomes, ca

Edyta Zielinska
A virus has a relatively easy time replicating itself. It's just a matter of hijacking a cell to generate the necessary components and in minutes, the capsid shell proteins self-assemble around a coil of viral genome. But for the glassblowers working with British artist linkurl:Luke Jerram;http://www.lukejerram.com/projects/glass_microbiology replicating a virus wasn't so easy.
Luke Jerram holding his swine
flu sculpture

Image: The Wellcome Trust
Jerram and his assistants created glass genomes, carefully placing them on tiny pedestals within what would become viral envelopes. Then they closed up the tops before adding final touches of spikes and glycoproteins, which were shaped and melted on while keeping the whole work at roughly the same temperature. Though the natural process of viral replication is seemingly effortless, some viruses do slip up. Dengue virus, for example, creates one properly assembled particle in every 4,000 tries. In comparison, Jerram's glassblowers were relative experts. "These are traditional...




Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT