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A Little Perspective

Computer graphics and cell biology combine for an immersive experience of the cell surface

17 July 2021

A Little Perspective

Imagine strolling along the surface of a single cell from your body. Protruding structures tower over you like trees in a forest, helping you learn their biological form and function, like a child on a guided nature walk. Creating this experience, or a virtual version of it, is the goal of a new tool called Nanoscape. Our detailed understanding of structural cellular biology has enabled an explosion of digital renderings in recent years. But aligning scientific data with aesthetically functional and impactful images is not straightforward. This approach combines data from many sources to create as accurate a representation as possible without sacrificing the visualisations’ aesthetic appeal (pictured, well-known cell-surface markers above, then placed on a virtual sphere to approximate a cell surface environment). Immersive representations like this articulate intricate complexities of biology, both for education and for those seeking to answer fundamental questions about how microscopic dynamics underpin life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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