Designer/molecular biologist Eleanor Lutz is back with yet another awesome science series: virus trading cards.

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“This week I made a set of virus trading cards! Viruses are surprisingly symmetrical, and I love them because they remind me of a biological version of snowflakes. Each trading card shows you the structure of the viral capsid – the protein shell protecting the genetic material inside a virus,” Lutz wrote in a blog post on her website.

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Viruses are noncellular genetic elements that use a living cell for their replication and have an extracellular state. For this reason, viruses are considered non-living. These ultramicroscopic particles are made up of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) surrounded by protein. Some are encased in a membranelike envelope, as well.

“To make the 3D animations I used UCSF Chimera, a free molecular modeling program. When scientists discover a new protein structure they upload it to the worldwide Protein Data Bank. Each entry is assigned a unique ID number, which you can use to call up the structure in programs like Chimera or PyMol.”

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