Harvard University and XVIVO have released this video of the inner workings of a cell. This is the most detailed and accurate depiction of proteins inside a cell that’s ever been made. Amazing stuff. Love seeing the jittery movements. These are slowed down so we can see what’s going on.
Two years ago, BioVisions and Xvivo set out to upgrade their animations by capturing some of the messy complexity of protein movements. They wanted to cram a virtual cell with proteins at a more realistic density, and then have them jitter and collide
In this movie, we enter a neuron by diving through a channel on its surface. Once inside, we’re instantly surrounded by a swarm of molecules. We push through the crowd until we reach a proteasome, a barrel-shaped molecule that shreds damaged proteins so their components can be used to make new proteins.
Once more we see a vesicle being hauled by kinesin. But in this version, the kinesin doesn’t look like a molecule out for a stroll. Its movements are barely constrained randomness.
Every now and then, a tiny molecule loaded with fuel binds to one of the kinesin “feet.” It delivers a jolt of energy, causing that foot to leap off the molecular cable and flail wildly, pulling hard on the foot that’s still anchored. Eventually, the gyrating foot stumbles into contact again with the cable, locking on once more — and advancing the vesicle a tiny step forward.
This updated movie offers a better way to picture our most intricate inner workings. For one thing, it helps us to understand why we become sick. A number of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are caused when defective proteins clamp onto other proteins, creating toxic clumps.
A couple weeks ago I gave you a quick and dirty lesson in how cells are not the neatly ordered bags of water that textbooks make them out to be. Now Harvard’s BioVisions and XVIVO animation bring us this amazing look at the crowded protein pandemonium inside every bit of you.
It’s kind of overwhelming, with all that Brownian twitching and enzymatic oscillation, eh? So overwhelming, in fact, that the only structures I could recognize by sight were the myosin V walking down an actin filament kinesin on a microtubule walking like a drunk with a shaky step, and some clathrin cages vibrating themselves in and out of vesicle formation. Recognize anything else?
Even if you have zero idea what’s going on, this is a beautiful look at a world beyond sight, informed by decades of study in protein structures and biophysics, and translated into a beautiful combination of sights and sounds. Enjoy this scientific journey!
Article: Fantastical Biology – Part Eight: Fantasy Diseases
When creating a believable fantasy world, we often focus on things like politics, religion, culture; but there’s a tiny (microscopic, in fact) detail that can flesh out a story world and be used to create tension and conflict. Protagonists in fantasy novels often get cuts and bruises, or spend a few nights camping in the cold, drinking from ponds they hope are safe. Sometimes they worry about infections, but more often they just wrap a piece of their dirty, sweaty shirt around the cut and continue on their way. We usually don’t read about the part where they get a raging infection from the cut, and a case of the runs from the pond water, and what this does to their ability to fight. And so, this Fantastical Biology article will take a look at the tiny creatures that can do more damage to a stalwart knight than any dragon could.
In 2006, Harvard University teamed up with XVIVO to develop an animation that would take their cellular biology students on a journey through the microscopic world of a cell. The Inner of the Cell follows a white blood cell’s movement along the endothelium and its response to an external stimulus — a process known as…
Federal health regulators have approved a novel device that can preserve donated lungs outside the body for possible transplantation into critically ill patients.
The Food and Drug Administration says that the approval of the XVIVO Perfusion System could lead to more successful transplants of lungs for people with cystic fibrosis and other deadly respiratory diseases.