The H1N1 flu pandemic killed 17,000 people across the globe between 2009 and 2010. Pretty terrifying. To prevent that from ever happening again, scientists have created a super-detailed computer model of the killer virus.
Researchers at the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences generated the first computational model of H1N1 at the atomic level, reports Popular Science. The Chinese scientists used molecular-dynamics simulations, their Mole-8.5 supercomputer, and 2,200 graphics processors to build the model.
"We actually created an ‘electronic pet' in the computer, which we can experiment with under many different environments and conditions with a variety of drugs, and we can know every detail of the change in the virion, says Dr. Wei Ge, a professor of chemical engineering at CAS-IPE and a principal in the H1N1 modeling effort, told PopSci via email. Therefore, we believe it could provide a possible way to bridge virology, epidemiology, and drug design on the molecular level."
They can use their nasty little pet to simulate how the virus will behave in various conditions, including when treated with a potential drug. And it can all be done without stepping foot inside a laboratory and risking potential exposure to the bug. The simulation moves relatively slowly now, but they hope to get the speed fast enough that they could create vaccines on the fly as pathogens crop up.
This is definitely one time when a virtual pet is better than the real thing. [Popular Science]