It's time for some hands-on learning through this origami activity developed by the British Society for Immunology. Have fun testing your creative skills while finding out more about how antibodies and viruses interact with our immune systems! This activity is suitable for all ages to enjoy and is free to download and share.
Learn along with origami artist Dr Lizzie Burn by watching the videos below or follow the step-by-step instructions by scrolling down the page. Instructions with accompanying illustrations are also available in PDF for printing.
Fold an origami antibody!
Fold an origami virus!
What you'll need
For both activities you'll need to start off with a square piece of paper. To make a square from an A4 sheet of paper, take a top corner down to line up with the bottom to make a sharp point and remove the rectangle:
If you’re infected with a virus your body is ready to fight using antibodies. Special white blood cells called B cells detect viruses and make specific shaped antibodies that stick to the virus and encourage other immune cells to attack and destroy. Our bodies make new antibodies during an infection with a virus or after vaccination, which uses a harmless form of a virus to train your immune system. Fold an antibody and celebrate your amazing immune system! Remember that origami takes time and patience. Look carefully at the videos for each step and think of this as a puzzle.
1. Fold your square in half, open it and fold the outsides to meet the line you created, like double doors.
2. Keeping the ‘doors’ closed, repeat – fold in half, open and bring outsides to the middle to make a square.
3. Open one side, make two diagonal folds from the centre of the inner square to the corners. Flatten down to make points. Repeat on other side.
4. Fold over opposite points to make a ‘windmill’.
5. Turn the ‘windmill’ over to the smooth square. Fold along the diagonal and flip out the top and bottom ‘windmill’ arms to make a ‘Pac man’.
6. Crease the four points, open them up and tuck into the pocket between the folds.
7. You’ve made an origami antibody!
Viruses can make us unwell. They are tiny and have a spiky outside and instructions inside to make more viruses (their genetic material; DNA). Thankfully our immune system makes antibodies to stop viruses. Vaccines use a harmless form of a virus to train our immune system to make lots of antibodies so you can be protected from future infection.
1. Fold your square in half, open and fold the outsides to the middle, like double doors.
2. Open the right ‘door’, fold the top right corner down to the quarter crease to make a triangle. Bring the left ‘door’ down to meet the triangle and close the right side.
3. Bring up the bottom right corner to the line.
4. Open and a ‘tongue’ appears - tuck it underneath.
5. Take the bottom right and slide it under, then fold up to make ‘bunny ears’.
6. Take the smooth side and fold the top point down. Turn over and repeat.
8. Open to reveal a zig-zag shape with two pockets in the middle. You have made one unit!
You can now get building! The point of one unit will plug into the pocket of the next. Three units connect to form a strong triangle. Different numbers of units create different shapes. Many viruses look like the final one with pentagons on each side.
Drawings and writing have been created for the British Society for Immunology by scientist-turned-artist Dr Lizzie Burns.