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Engineers 3D model to help combat deadly animal virus

A WMG PRESS RELEASE
PR 06/08
20 June 2008
Engineers’ 3D model to help combat deadly animal virus
 
A new 3D model of the Blue Tongue animal virus has been created by WMG researchers at the University of Warwick that will help biologists devise new ways to combat the virus and protect millions of livestock from infection.
 
The WMG researchers based their model on data provided by the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright, and from Oxford University. The team used rapid prototyping technology, normally used to create highly accurate 3D copies of components for a range of manufacturing processes.
 
Dr Greg Gibbons, who leads WMG’s rapid prototyping team, is working with Professor Peter Mertens, head of the Arbovirus Research Group at the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright, and Dr Robert Esnouf of Oxford University.
 
Dr Gibbons said: “Research collaboration between engineers and biologists is rare although we have worked with Oxford and the IAH before. The physical model we’ve created is based on the same technology we use to quickly and cheaply create models of, for example, car parts; used by manufacturers to develop designs and test products before going into full-scale production.”
 
The insect-borne virus is most commonly seen in the late summer and autumn and can devastate herds of sheep and cattle.
 
Professor Mertens said: “Blue Tongue represents the worst threat to agriculture this country has seen for 20 years. In its first year in Belgium it wiped out 100 sheep, but in its second year it wiped out 30,000. In Britain we have 34 million sheep – we could be looking at losing up to 20 per cent of that population.”
 
“I don’t know of any other way to create a scientifically accurate model of a virus. By using the computer models we’ve generated we can feed that information into the machines at WMG and create an absolutely perfect model of the real virus.”
 
“The model will help us to understand how the molecules and proteins interact with one another and this could help us to develop new anti-viral drugs. Having a physical model that you can pick up and peer at will make a huge difference.”
 
The Blue Tongue model will be on show at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition in London from 30 June to 3 July.
 
Notes to editors:
· WMG, an academic department of the University of Warwick, is a provider of innovative solutions to industry, supporting some of the most advanced research, development and training projects in the world. www.wmg.warwick.ac.uk
· Pictures and broadcast-quality footage available on request. Interviews also possible.
 
For media enquiries
Peter Dunn, Press & Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick, Tel: 024 76 523708 or mobile 07767 655860
email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk
 

Dr Greg Gibbons constructs the Bluetongue model

Click here for more downloadable images

A computer-generated model of the Bluetongue virus 

 

 

 

Research at the Institute for Animal Health
WATCH: a short film of the genetic construction of the virus