Here is your first look at the atomic structure of the HIV capsid

Today's comment of the day comes to us from commenter Ryan M, who responded to our call for the most incredible images of 2013 with a nominee from something that he's been working on: The first look at the atomic structure of the HIV capsid.

The discovery of the structure is the result of a study led by University of Illinois physics professor Klaus Schulten, which used the Blue Waters supercomputer to break down the HIV capsid — which includes 1300+ identical proteins and over 64 million atoms — and reassemble it into an accurate structural model.

So, just what are we looking at? Ryan M explains:

Simulations were performed on supercomputers to assemble the HIV capsid (the colored cylinder that you can see), which is the protein coat that surrounds the viral RNA (which the virus uses to make more of itself once inside the infected cell). This is the first time the structure of the capsid was known at atomic detail, which now provides a stepping stone towards better understanding the infection process of HIV and possibly designing and testing drugs.

The full study is published over at Nature.