GETTING A FEEL FOR STRUCTURE
3-D Printing, Virtual Reality Offer New Ways to Experience Molecules

VRC deputy director Dr. Barney Graham (r) shows 3-D model to Bill Gates at recent visit.
VRC deputy director Dr. Barney Graham (r) shows 3-D model to Bill Gates at recent visit.

PHOTO: CHIA-CHI CHARLIE CHANG

Scientists have known for some time that influenza is a weed in the lawn of life. Shaped very much like dandelions, new hemagglutinin (HA) proteins that decorate the surface of flu viruses crop up every year—persistent, hardy and unwanted. What’s more, the molecules show an uncanny ability to change annually, outwitting the previous year’s vaccine. That’s why we have to get a new flu shot every year, to fight off the HA molecule’s new look.

Since January, scientists in NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center have used several advanced tech tools to study flu’s structure, to see how it latches onto our body’s cells and figure out the weak spots where a vaccine could best attack and destroy the molecule.


Three-dimensional printing capability places detailed models of flu HA molecules in researchers’ hands. Virtual reality technology lets scientists walk into a molecule and view it from the inside out. These fresh ways of seeing viruses open intriguing new opportunities for research.

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LGBT Health Data Collection Still Needs Work

Panel moderator JoAnne Keatley of UCSF
Panel moderator JoAnne Keatley of UCSF

Members of the federal government came together recently in Bldg. 40 to discuss ways to improve and analyze the collection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health data during a panel discussion called “Making Our Stories Count.”

The event, held in recognition of Pride Month, was presented by NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office. JoAnne Keatley of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco, moderated the panel.

Before the discussion began, the senior advisor for LGBT health at HHS, Elliot Kennedy, summarized efforts to collect data for LGBT research. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released the LGBT health report. It confirmed anecdotal accounts that this population has worse health outcomes compared to other populations. The report also found researchers know little about the population.

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