Behold the Omicron Spike

The images of the molecular representation of omicron spike proteins released by the Amaro Lab of UC San Diego are, in a way, hypnotic and artful -- despite their deadly potential

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Scientists at UC San Diego on Tuesday released comparative illustrations of spike heads of the the omicron and delta coronavirus variants.

By now, most people have seen the spiked volleyball-like images of the coronavirus, but visual representations of the the omicron variant, which, after all, was only just documented by the World Health Organization last week, have been scarce.

"More than 30 mutations made the variant's spike proteins, which cover the outside of the virus and are the main targets of vaccines and the body’s immune responses, different from those of the virus that first emerged in late 2019," NBC News reported.

According to the World Health Organization, the "B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021." Less than a week later, the mutation of the novel coronavirus has spooked leaders around the world and shook the markets, which on Tuesday again lost hundreds of points.

The images of the "[m]olecular representation of omicron SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins" released by the Amaro Lab of UC San Diego are, in a way, hypnotic and artful -- despite their deadly potential -- in which the "spike protein is shown in transparent white ribbons, single point mutations are shown in blue surfaces, amino acid deletions are shown in red surfaces, amino acid insertions are shown in white surfaces."

Different images show the "spike head" from multiple vantage points, including topdown, giving a 3-D look at its molecular makeup.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said on Monday that preliminary data from South Africa suggests that the omicron variant may be more contagious than its predecessors, giving urgency to researchers trying to discover whether the vaccine will prove resistant to omicron.

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