Wellcome Image of the Week: Vesicle Traffic
This week the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to a trio of researchers whose work unravelled the mystery of how cells transport molecules. Randy Schekman, James Rothman and Thomas Südhof worked on vesicles, the membrane-bound sacks that act as parcels for delivery of molecules such as insulin and neurotransmitters.
The above image is a computer graphic showing vesicle transport at the Golgi apparatus of a eukaryotic cell. The images was produced by Dr Mhairi Towler and Janice Aitken of the University of Dundee, as part of a joint project to look at the use of animation in lectures on cell biology, and as an interactive online teaching aid.
Different vesicles have different functions depending on the molecules they contain. The Golgi apparatus (or Golgi body) is an organelle that is responsible for sorting proteins and lipids by packaging them into vesicles and ensuring they are delivered to the correct place in the cell.
Dr Towler met Aitken while studying on the Learning, Teaching & Assessing Module, part of the Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education at University of Dundee. During discussions about how to make large group lectures more engaging for students, they identified the potential for collaboration.
Dr Towler was interested in the partnership as a way of bringing her lectures to life. One of her goals was to use computer graphics to help show the 3D nature of the interactions of different parts of cellular machinery that can be hard using 2D static images.
Aitken comes from a background of digital art and design and was looking at how those skills could be used to enhance learning and engagement. She involved a small group of animation students in the project to give them the experience of working with a scientific visualisation.
“Having carried out a PhD and postdoctoral research position in the area of membrane traffic, I was delighted to hear about this years Nobel prize winners” says Dr Towler, whose career took a change of course after the collaboration with Aitken. ”Seeing a gap in the market for scientific communication I have gone on to re-train in animation and launched my own company Vivomotion in 2012″. The company specialises in creating animations for scientific communication.