Imagine walking through a playground and seeing a group of children huddled around some playing cards. Just as you get nostalgic flashbacks of Pokemon, you hear one of them shout, “That’s no fair! I wanted HPV!” Before you start to fear for the future of the human race, I should tell you about the Virus Trading cards created by Eleanor Lutz.
Lutz, a PhD biology student at the University of Washington, created these viral trading cards for her blog of scientific illustrations. At this time there’s only four, so you don’t need to worry about these hitting the shelves of a Toys”R”Us any time soon.
So why viruses? According to her blog, “Viruses are surprisingly symmetrical, and I love them because they remind me of a biological version of snowflakes.”
The four viruses featured are: Dengue, Adenovirus, Chlorella, and HPV (type 16). From a browser the cards are animated, rotating to show the genetic material inside the virus. To create these animations Lutz used UCSF Chimera, a free molecular modeling program.
Though there are only four cards now, Lutz says more could be made using data from the worldwide Protein Data Bank. (That’s where scientists store information on newly found protein structures.)
The coolest part? If you have access to a 3D printer, you can not only exchange trading cards but 3D prints of the virus’ structures. Keep that in mind for your next white elephant gift exchange; I guarantee you’ll be the only one who’s bringing the Dengue Virus as a gift.