Take a look at this photo, and try not to sneeze. Using one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia created stunning 3D images of the virus, called a rhinovirus, that causes the majority of cold infections. The computer can also simulate the motion of the virus, helping researchers better understand how the virus ticks—and how new drugs can work against it. Though the rendering made its debut back in July, it’s worth a look now as sneezing season begins.
Of course, even without winter hitting parts of the country early this year, this is a big deal. Colds may be a major annoyance for most people, but they can be serious health risks for people with chronic lung diseases like asthma, cystic fibrosis or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The new technology also shows promise for curing illnesses beyond the common cold. The rhinoviruses that cause the cold are related to a family of viruses that cause serious diseases like polio and meningitis.
Scientists hope that using the incredible new 3D images to learn how specific drugs affect the cold virus will also help them develop medications against these related viruses, potentially saving many lives.