Friday, May 24, 2013

Going viral

The cover of the May 10 issue of Science (click to enlarge). It caught my eye immediately. It would catch anyone's eye. What is it? The caption reads:
Model of a candidate HIV vaccine prime immunogen (center) engaging germline B cell receptors (bottom) to initiate an antibody immune response. The immunogen is a virus-like nanoparticle, ~30 nanometers in diameter, displaying 60 copies of an HIV gp120 outer domain protein engineered to bind germline precursors of specific broadly neutralizing antibodies. This work has promising implications for HIV vaccine research.
The caption I can grasp. The accompanying report in the journal by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and elsewhere flies over my head. This is very much a specialist's game. But that doesn't make the computer-generated, false-colored model on the cover of Science any less impressive.

The two terms in the caption to focus on are "30 nanometers" and "engineered."

This "engineered" object is ten thousand times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.