This week's image comes from the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, which appears in the Feb. 18 issue of Science. This arresting (and also haunting) model took first place in the competition. According to the Science article:
Ivan Konstantinov's winning illustration reduces HIV to unnerving simplicity. His team at the Visual Science Company in Moscow spent months combing through the latest research, compiling data from more than 100 papers and assembling the information into a coherent image of a 100-nanometer HIV particle. They depicted the proteins in just two basic colors: Gray equals host, orange equals virus.
HIV breaks into immune cells and hijacks their genes. The orange proteins on the outside bind to the immune cell, letting the viral core slip inside. Once in, it fuses with the cell membrane (gray shell), turns its viral RNA into DNA, and integrates into the cell nucleus. The host cell then starts making viral proteins, turning into a virus factory.
The contest was conducted in association with the National Science Foundation.