When biology is taught, it can look very static.
It seems, on paper, that things in a cell follow a logical order; we can trace the path of carbohydrates, for example, through glycolysis and the citric acid cycle, the latter fueling the reduction of high-energy electron carriers to generate ATP through the churning of the electron transport chain’s proton pump. Proteins looked rigid, trapped in complex three-dimensional structures, and everything in the cell appears as neat little capsules within the cellular membrane: Organised. Logical. Functional.
Not so, say Alain Viel and Robert. A. Lue.
The Harvard University professors of Molecular and Cell Biology pioneered the BioVisions project - an aim to get Harvard undergraduates to understand the chaotic complexity of the cellular environment. To do this, they developed extraordinarily precise animations; a far cry from the typical narrative explanations in science documentaries, these are accurate down to the smallest protein subunit.
The ultimate goal of the BioVisions project can be summarised by ‘to see is to begin to understand.’ Biology is constantly innovating, and new and more powerful ways to communicate it are becoming increasingly necessary as the discipline becomes ever more microscopic. The very act of observing and recording data lies at the foundation of all the natural sciences - and molecular biology is no exception.
So sit back, relax, and take a tour of the mitochondria: The cell’s ATP pump. See what you can spot in the animation; ATP is the glowing orange molecule, for example, and ADP is the burnt orange one.
All video credit goes to Harvard University and the BioVisions project.
Together Harvard University and XVIVO developed this 3D animation journey for Harvard’s undergraduate Molecular and Cellular Biology students about the microscopic world of mitochondria. The animation highlights the creation of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) — mobile molecules which store chemical energy derived from the breakdown of carbon-based food. ATP molecules act as a kind of currency, imparting chemical energy to power all the functional components of cellular activity. This piece is the second in a series of award winning animations XVIVO is creating for Harvard’s educational website BioVisions at Harvard. The first program, Inner Life of the Cell, received international acclaim and can be seen both on our website and the BioVisions site.