For World Aids Day, we thought we would feature this visualisation of the HIV virus, created by a team of scientists, designers and animators known as VisualScience. It is based on dozens of recent scientific publications – from fields such as virology, X-ray analysis and NMR spectroscopy – in order to produce this beautiful portrait of a pathogen that produces such an ugly disease.
The HIV virus is roughly 120nm across (one thousand times smaller than the thickness of a piece of paper) and covered in a viral envelope made of cell membranes and projecting glycoproteins which allow the virus to attach to and invade cells). Once inside, it forces the cell’s own machinery to create more copies of itself. Internally, there are layers of structural protein, which cover the capsid – a conical structure containing the virus’s DNA. Mouseover the image to see the capsid shown in pale orange.