DEC 16, 2022 5:10 PM PST

An Animation of the SARS-CoV-2 Life Cycle

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been studied in depth, and now, researchers have put all that knowledge into an incredibly detailed animation that reveals the life cycle of the virus as it infects cells. The video took 18 months to make. It was created for a broad audience by scientists from the University of Maastricht, who used animation software called Houdini. The 3D movie includes details of proteins and infected cells.

Although there are plenty of videos about COVID-19 and the virus, a lot of these have dealt with public health information, such as why masks were important to wear and how to properly wash your hands. "None of them represented the life cycle of the virus itself or incorporated real-life microscopic images as we have done now," said Raimond Ravelli.

"Over the last two years, scientists around the world have studied many pieces of the puzzle of how the virus works and published their findings. We took up the challenge of putting those pieces together and transforming them into moving 3D images in a single story," colleagues Ravelli, Kèvin Knoops, who researched SARS for his graduate degree, and Jeroen Claus, the founder and owner of an animation studio called Phospho, explained.

Along with a group of experts, the team aimed to present a clear animation and summary of how the coronavirus functions, seen above.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round red particles) emerging from the surface of a cell cultured in the lab. Image captured and colorized at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. Credit: NIAID

"I hope the animation will eventually be watched for many years to come and can be used in education for the next decade," says Ravelli. Even kids in elementary school will be able to learn from this straightforward video.

The work could also help people learn about the life cycle of infectious viruses in general, since many of them infect cells in a similar way, with differences being in details, added Knoops.

Sources: Medical Xpress via Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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