Video: A Mashup of 3-D Printing and Augmented Reality Helps Find New Drug Targets

Today in things that are just plain neat: a mashup of 3-D printing and augmented reality that is helping molecular researchers test potential drug molecules in the lab. At the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., teams are making physical models of biological viruses and then testing them using an added layer of AR wizardry.

Arthur Olsen, researcher at the Molecular Graphics Lab at Scripps, gives a great hands-on explanation of how all this works in the video above. But in a few words, researchers there are basically modeling viruses like HIV on 3-D printers, which allow them to actually hold in their hands the real biological structures of the pathogens. They can then model various ligand molecules or proteins or enzymes, etc., in 3-D as well and see which would be best able to latch onto the virus.

But beyond that, they can use a simple web cam AR program that can model the energy needed for certain molecular bonds as well. So the researchers can basically hold a virus and various potential treatments in their hands, look at the computer screen, and play with different geometries and energetic attractions to see what might work best. Check out the short video, this is really cool.