We’re all hosts on a viral planet

About 1986, I was a MSc graduate student working on Verticillium (that’s a fungus) in tomatoes), published a couple of peer-revived papers, and then became the editor of the student newspaper (circ 25,000) after writing a science column about cats for a year because they were the first warm-blooded pets I had ever had.

I think my friend Mary knows what I’m talking about.

I also spent a lot of time looking through the electron microscope, which was also a great place to have sex.

I had a lot of sex there.

Researchers in the Agriculturpal Research Service (ARS) Electron and Confocal Microscopy Unit can magnify a cell’s internal structures to 200,000 times their size, flash freeze mites in liquid nitrogen to create striking “snapshots” as they feed, and create color-enhanced images that show a virus infecting its host. The resulting images help scientists determine how agricultural pests and pathogens feed, reproduce, respond to threats, and survive.

A sampling of the unit’s digital photo album shows the eclectic nature of its efforts.

The team also has a unique 3D printing capability that allows them to transform the images they create into hand-size 3D models that are the most structurally accurate models of mites and other organisms currently available. The researchers hope that one day they will be able to upload the 3D files to an online database so that anyone with a 3D printer can reproduce them to use as instructional aids, in research, or for scientific outreach.