Icosahedrons have three axes of rotational symmetry—two-fold (180°), three-fold (120°) and five-fold (72°). At the two-fold axis of symmetry, the shape will look the same if it’s rotated on this axis 180°. Can you find all three axes of symmetry?
This model can also be used to illustrate the concept of gene therapy. Gene therapy seeks to treat diseases caused by defective or deficient proteins by introducing genetic material as medicine. Instead of manufacturing and injecting a functional version of the protein, gene therapists modify viruses so that their genomes contain a copy of the gene that encodes for the correct form of the diseased protein. Viral genes are removed from the genome, so that when the virus—now a viral vector—enters the target cell, it produces correct copies of the therapeutic protein instead of creating new virions (complete virus particles).
Gene therapy has been used in clinical trials to treat a wide range of diseases, including HIV, hemophilia, cancer, and “bubble-boy disease” (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency).
If you are a teacher making these models with your class, we recommend one model for every 1–2 students.
This Science Snack is part of a collection that showcases female mathematicians and math educators whose work aids or expands our understanding of the phenomena explored in each Snack.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Every cell in your body has two yards (six feet) of DNA inside. How does your body pack in all that DNA? Mariel Vázquez (pictured above), a mathematical biologist, studies the shape of DNA. Using a type of math called topology, she simplifies DNA into basic shapes like curves, ribbons, and lines connecting dots to better understand how DNA knots and coils. Vázquez grew up in Mexico and studied at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and UC Berkeley. In our Science Snack Viral Packaging, you can see if you can fit nucleic acids and proteins into a small package.