In 1988 on the forst World Aids Day, I was sixteen and was chosen by school, with 3 friends, to attend an AIDS awareness event in London. We joined young adults from all over the UK in a day of learning about the disease, the epidemic and prevention. We were given the mission to take the message back to our school mates: Explain the disease, explain the risk, encourage safe sex and destigmatise the condition.

I like to think we did our bit. It was somewhat nervewracking standing before the whole school the week after, 16 years old, and encouraging my peers and seniors to wear condoms...call it a first foray into public engagement in health literacy and public affairs.

Who knew that 22 years later so much progress would have been made, and so many people would have died, and that I would find myself working for a firm  whose instruments and equipment are at the heart of the struggle against HIV/AIDS. And that this would throw up images of such devastating beauty as this. 

Hiv---tom_hope

Stay with me folks, the drivel above is preamble - this is the juicy stuff - Think of the HIV virus as Luke Skywalker destroying the Deathstar (our T-Cells):: The image shows HIV virus (green x-wing fighter) travelling down the microtubules (in red) towards the cell’s nucleus (the blue main reactor), where the viral rampage causes havoc, either killing the cell directly, causing the cell to kill itself (boom), or the body's immune system to kill the cell (tie-ghters turn on the Death Star to stop the rebel alliance). Then, when enough of the critical CD4+ T cells (Death Stars) are destroyed, the Empire's (our body's) defences are down and cell-mediated immune response is no-longer effective; the Rebel Alliance wins, the Sith are banished, and the Jedi Return. Obviously this only works as a metaphor if you join the Dark Side and root for the Empire, not those pesky rebels and their cuddly friends.

 

 Technologies for imaging live cells are increasing our understanding of disease and are critical to the discovery and design of new drugs against HIV

Image courtesy Dave McDonald, University of Illinois/GE Healthcare