How can 3D cell animations and molecular holograms help patients to connect with their biology?

Back in 2019, Peter Mac released its first official flagship animation What Goes Wrong in Cancer to showcase how the invisible molecular world within our cells can be disrupted, leading to cancer.

Since the animation’s release, What Goes Wrong in Cancer has won several awards and been featured in health and science film festivals throughout 2020.

Now, Peter Mac’s biomedical animator, Dr Maja Divak, has collaborated with Melbourne-based contemporary artist Eric Jong to create holograms from the award-winning animation.

These holograms, or spherical images, allow graphics from the animation to reach a wider audience in a purely aesthetic form. They are intended to have universal appeal, for everyone from a highly trained scientist to the interested layperson.

When explaining what makes the holograms distinct from the on-screen animation, Dr Divak describes how “they have shape and volume and can be interrogated in a physical way”.

“You can walk around them and view from different angles; you can get really close to them to observe the beautiful jewel-like prisms. I think this gives a more personal aspect to the animation and more of a sense that these are your biological molecules residing in your cells.”

The newly created holograms were recently exhibited at Testing Grounds, a space for emerging and established artists to test drive their creations in a supportive environment. The holograms were well received by viewers, with many commenting on their beauty. ‘Working with Eric was a really interesting experience. His creative approach is intellectually driven whereas mine is all about the data. It was inspiring to see the animation achieve a life beyond the confines of a frame’

After three years in her role as Peter Mac’s inaugural Biomedical Animator, Maja says she couldn’t be more grateful to work at the interface between art and science.

“I enjoy helping others to appreciate that there is a drama unfolding inside our cells all day, every day that, like breathing, we are often unaware of. I want people to learn of the existence of this world, to acknowledge that it is extraordinary and also to realise that things can sometimes go awry… which is where Peter Mac steps in!”