Biomedical Animation

Dr Maja Divjak works at the interface between art and science, using Biomedical Animation for the purposes of scientific education and illustration of biological processes

Many people are frightened of science, both the ideas and the language; we wish to remove this fear by making science accessible, through the use of captivating 3D representations, rather than abstract concepts.

Biomedical Animation can break down the barriers between empirical research, that is the people in white coats, and the general public. It acts as a conduit from a rarefied, often unseen world to the general public and gives them a greater understanding and insight into what scientists might be up to behind closed doors. It gives access to new discoveries that might otherwise be very difficult to explain and promotes a sense of inclusiveness that has previously been lacking. The real power of biomedical animation is the ability to make the unseen, molecular world visible. It even has the power to offer insights to scientists, inspiring ideas they might not have had, until seeing their hero molecules in action.

Biomedical Animation at Peter Mac

At Peter Mac, we use 3D animation to compare normal biology with cancer biology, enabling cancer patients and the interested lay person to understand some of the molecular and cellular processes at play in cancer and so connect with their own bodies and biology. We also wish to inform the viewer about how Peter Mac is approaching the problem of cancer by conducting world-leading research and offering the most cutting-edge diagnostics, treatments, education and psychological support.

The animations we create are based on actual scientific data- the protein and DNA molecules you see are actually how they look- they are not just artistic interpretations. We spend large amounts of time researching these molecules and how they interact and many, many hours building them based on data available in the Protein Data Bank. Often, we are working right at the leading edge of research and some structures have simply not yet been discovered. In these situations, we create an approximation of them based on their amino acid sequence, so we are still using scientific data as much as we can. You will, however, note the use of vibrant colour. This is a contentious issue; the molecular level is smaller than the wavelength of light, therefore there is no light and without light, there is no colour. Some wish to approach this quandary by working entirely in grey scale, but we prefer to use artistic license, employing colour to great visual effect. 

The ultimate aim of our animations is to help people appreciate the beauty and drama unfolding in their own bodies at any given moment. Human biology is extraordinary!

Flagship Animation: 'What Goes Wrong in Cancer?'

Official Launch December 6

Our first official Peter Mac animation is a large and ambitious project which reveals the invisible molecular world within our cells and how this finely tuned world can occasionally become disrupted, leading to cancer. Peter Mac is also showcased as a world leader in cancer research, treatment and diagnostics and allied health, always employing the latest available technologies. As such, Peter Mac is Australia's only hospital solely dedicated to the overarching theme of cancer. Here are some stills from the animation:

Types of DNA Damage
DNA Damage

P53 Bound to DNA
P53 Bound to DNA

BRCA1 Initiates DNA Repair
BRCA1 Initiates DNA Repair

KRas Activation by Sos-1
KRas Activation by Sos-1