Luke Jerramturns microscopic pathogens into huge, glass-blown models.
These striking yet scary representations, in some ways, portray these pathogens more accurately than scientific versions, which often use artificial colour to highlight various parts.
“By extracting the colour from the imagery and creating jewel-like beautiful sculptures in glass, a complex tension arises between the artworks’ beauty and what they represent,” he told Scientific American.
One man, living with HIV, sent Jerram a letter after seeing one of his sculptures.
I just saw a photo of your glass sculpture of HIV.
I can’t stop looking at it. Knowing that millions of those guys are in me, and will be a part of me for the rest of my life. Your sculpture, even as a photo, has made HIV much more real for me than any photo or illustration I’ve ever seen. It’s a very odd feeling seeing my enemy, and the eventual likely cause of my death, and finding it so beautiful.
With help from virologists at the University of Bristol and a glass-blowing team, Jerram shows the world what these pathogens look like at 1,000,000 times their actual size.
In Jerram’s art, this man saw all the tools HIV used to infect him. For example, proteins on the outside of the virus let them enter the healthy white blood cells and take over their machinery.
The inner-sexagonal shape of the virus is the capsid (or protein) coat. It protects the genetic material inside the virus until it can get inside the cell. Jerram’s models either show balls of genetic material or the individual strands of RNA or DNA.
The smooth model shows the parasite that causes malaria, known as Plasmodium falciparum, just after invading a red blood cell. The spiky model shows only the parasite. According to American Mosquito Control Association technical advisor Joe Conlon, malaria kills the equivalent of nine Boeing 747s full of children every year.
Enterovirus 71, or EV71 evolved rather recently -- it was first seen infecting humans in 1965. The virus causes the generally mild hand, foot, and mouth disease, which commonly affects infants and children. It sometimes results in a fatal neurological disease.
The human pappilloma virus (HPV) causes genital warts, and some strains even cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is steadily lowering the rates of the virus in women and young girls. Among females aged 14 -- 19 years, the vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased from 11.5% in 2003 to 2006 to 5.1% in 2007 to 2010.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects and kills off white blood cells. Without white blood cells, our bodies can't fight infections -- the hallmark of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It's almost always fatal without treatment. In 2011, 1.7 million people died of AIDS, and approximately 34 million people continue to live with the disease worldwide.
HIV-2 is a lesser known sub-type strand of HIV. It's less prevalent in English-speaking countries but up to two million people across Africa are infected.
The bacteria Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is usually harmless. Your body contains these harmless strains of E. coli, but some strains cause gastro-intestinal problems, like diarrhoea. These strains are usually picked up from unsafe food.
This particular coronavirus causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS terrified the world with a potential global outbreak in 2003. Spreading to 12 countries, the virus killed 774 people. Since then, not a single case has been reported.
The variola virus causes smallpox, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease marked by lesions on the skin. We've successfully beat the virus with a vaccine -- naturally occurring infections no longer occur. But countries still have stockpiles of the smallpox virus, which could be used as a weapon of bio-terrorism.
The H1N1 influenza virus causes swine flu, a dangerous strain of flu that can lead to deadly respiratory infection. Jerram created this particular glass work 'with a fever whilst swallowing my Tamiflu tablets every few hours.'
This close-up of the H1N1 virus. 'There were lots of different scientific imagery and diagrams flying around in the media .... What I'm doing is providing an alternative representation of the virus for the public to consider,' Jerram said.
Viruses aren't just human diseases, they also infect bacteria. This kind of virus is called a bacteriophage, which uses its spindly shape to inject genetic material into bacteria cells. These genes commandeer a cell's machinery to build more and more injectors. Eventually, so many replicate the cell membrane bursts, spewing out tons of virus that go on to infect other bacteria.
Jerram and his team created this fictional representation of how viruses might evolve in the future. The design relies on predictions from virologists at the University of Bristol.
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