Thursday, 14 April 2011

HIV: Past and Present

When HIV was discovered in the 1980's, it became hugely feared, being labeled as a vicious killer and seen by the public as an 'end of the world' virus. With advertisements such as the one below it is easy to see how it gained this reputation - the atmosphere was apocalyptic. People treated HIV in the same way in which modern society has treated bird flu and swine flu, over reacting to something new that only affects a minority of the population.

But HIV is no deadlier now than it was 30 years ago and as such the apocalyptic atmosphere has died down. Due to advances in medical science HIV can be treated to an extent that an infected persons life is prolonged for several more years. Yes it still leads to death, but the fact that it is considered to be under more control and measures to ensure its prevention are being used, doesn't stir fear in the public as it used to.

Research: A Level Biology

As my animation is being directed towards A level students I felt it necessary to take a trip back to school and make a few notes from the A level textbook (above) concerning HIV (thankfully it has a four page case study). Here are a few things I made a not of:

What are Viruses?

Viruses are the smallest of all the microorganisms and range in size from 0.02 to 0.3um across, about 50 times smaller than the average bacterium.

Viruses are not cells. They are arrangements of genetic material and protein that invade other living cells and take over their biochemistry to make more viruses. It is because of this reproduction, and the fact that they change and evolve in an adaptive way, that they are still classed as living organisms. most scientists working on viruses class them as obligate intracellular parasites, meaning they can exist and reproduce as parasites only in the cells of other living organisms.

Infection by HIV does not lead to AIDs immediately. When people are infected by the virus but have no symptoms, they are HIV positive, as blood tests show the presence of HIV antibodies.

How is HIV Transmitted?

The HIV is very fragile and must be contained in human body fluids - it cannot survive in the air. The source of infection maybe someone who is HIV positive(who may not be aware of their infective status) or someone with active AIDs. The virus can be transmitted from person to person in three main ways:

  • Through sexual contact - the most common way.
  • Through infected blood, by intravenous drug users sharing needles and by the use of infected blood products (where these are not treated).
  • From a mother to her foetus in the early stages of pregnancy, during birth, or through breastfeeding.

How does HIV cause AIDs?

Most of the symptoms of AIDs result from the effect of HIV on the immune system. HIV attaches to the CD4 receptors on the T helper cells and infects them. HIV is a retrovirus and, once inside the T helper cell, it takes over the host DNA and replicates. When the new viruses leave the host T helper cell, it is destroyed. At the same time, host T killer cells recognise and destroy some of the heavily infected T helper cells. The result is a great reduction in the number of T helper cells, which in turn means that the activation of many macrophages and T killer cells simply does not take place. As a result the normal functioning of the T helper cells is lost or reduced, undermining the ability of the immune system to deal with other pathogens. This leaves the individual vulnerable to secondary infections which can kill.

HIV Replication

  • HIV surface protein binds to CD4 cell receptors. Virus envelope fuses with the cell surface membrane.
  • Virus reverse transcriptase copies viral RNA onto viral DNA.
  • Intergrase inserts viral DNA into host DNA.
  • Translation of the virus envelope proteins.
  • Transport of virus envelope protein.
  • Virus envelope proteins are included into the cell membrane.
  • Translation of virus proteins.
  • Virus particle budding becomes wrapped in cell membrane forming the virus envelope.

    Wednesday, 13 April 2011

    Target Audience

    Having studied biology at A level I have a reasonable understanding of most of the terms and processes mentioned in the brief on Monday, but when you're learning these processes with little to no previous knowledge, it can feel a little daunting - all these facts dumped on you at once can be a little mind melting.

    It is this prior experience with A level education and the difficulty with comprehending all of the facts, that I have decided to aim my animation towards A level students. The purpose of this is to give a visual representation of the facts for easier comprehension, something mentally and visually stimulating that students would be able to grasp ideas quicker and more clearly.

    Unit 6: Commission

    So Unit 6... this is it, the final hurdle of the first year. And what a project to get. Unit 6 is going to be great, mainly because it combines my favourite science subject, biology, with CG animation.

    "In response to one of the scenarios presented to you at time of briefing, you are required to produce a complete 3D animation that demonstrates creatively your ability to interpret, transcribe and represent complex ideas in engaging and dynamic ways."

    During the briefing on Monday, Dr. Klappa, a biology lecturer from Kent University, gave us four biological themes based around the category of infection. From these themes we are required to select one and turn it into a two minute 3D animation. The themes we were given are as follows:

    Theme 1: Infection by HIV
    Theme 2: Making an Antibody
    Theme 3: Fighting Infection
    Theme 4: Infection by Flu

    Friday, 8 April 2011

    Crit Presentation Post

    'The Wounded Teapot' Final Animation