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 the ideas and language of science. We wish to remove this fear by making science accessible, using biomedical animation - captivating 3D representations - rather than abstract concepts. The overwhelming power of biomedical animation is the ability to make the unseen, molecular world visible, as only the electron microscope is currently powerful enough to do that. Furthermore, biomedical animation can break down the barriers between empirical research, that is the people in white lab coats and the public. It acts as a conduit from a rarefied, often unseen world giving the layperson a greater understanding and insight into what our scientists get up to behind the closed doors of the lab. 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. 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 

We use three-dimensional 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 we are approaching the problem of cancer by conducting world-leading research and offering the most innovative diagnostics, treatments, education, and psychological support. 

We base the animations we create on actual scientific data - the protein and DNA molecules you see are how they look and 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 determined. 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. 

However, we do use artistic license when it comes to colour and sound. This is contentious, as many molecules are not inherently coloured and there is no perceptible sound associated with molecular interactions. In our work, colour is a powerful communication tool as it directs the viewer’s attention, can imply disease states, and engages by eliciting distinct emotional states. Similarly, the unique sound design serves to entertain, beguile, and reinforce the message of the visuals. 

The 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!


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Maja Divjak