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Dazzling Coronavirus Painting by Biologist David Goodsell

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Coronavirus painting by biologist David Goodsell

Since the early 90s, biologist David Goodsell (previously) has been creating scientifically accurate paintings of the structures of cells, molecules, and, yes, viruses. In early February, Goodsell completed a painting of a SARS coronavirus (above).

This painting depicts a coronavirus just entering the lungs, surrounded by mucus secreted by respiratory cells, secreted antibodies, and several small immune systems proteins. The virus is enclosed by a membrane that includes the S (spike) protein, which will mediate attachment and entry into cells, M (membrane) protein, which is involved in organization of the nucleoprotein inside, and E (envelope) protein, which is a membrane channel involved in budding of the virus and may be incorporated into the virion during that process. The nucleoprotein inside includes many copies of the N (nucleocapsid) protein bound to the genomic RNA.

In a brief interview with the NY Times, Goodsell explained why he made the image:

“You have to admit, these viruses are so symmetrical that they’re beautiful,” said Mr. Goodsell, an associate professor at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. “Are bright colors and pretty stuff the right approach? The jury’s still out. I’m not trying to make these things look dangerous, I want people to understand how they’re built.”

Seeing the infection count rise, Mr. Goodsell said he worried about the health of his aging parents in Los Angeles. But he hopes his painting can quell fears about the novel coronavirus by educating people on the virus’s workings: “I want people to think of viruses as being an entity that we can learn about and fight. They’re not nebulous nothings.”

Goodsell is currently working on a painting featuring the life cycle of a coronavirus and sharing his progress on Twitter. (via @christopherjobs)