Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drawing with DNA: ’Bioart’ illuminates genomics

21.07.2005


On any given day, tens of thousands of biologists around the globe run DNA sequences of unknown function through a lightning-fast online algorithm called BLAST – typically submitting 200 to 400 base pairs, or "letters" of genetic code, to be matched against the billions of letters for known genes. Searching for similarities that can shed light on functional or evolutionary relationships, scientists routinely use BLAST to churn through and produce vast amounts of data. Everyday applications include genetic medicine and pharmaceuticals. Yet this process and, more generally, genomics remain dimly understood by the public.


"Ecce Homology" custom software turns incomprehensibly long strings of genetic code into luminous, scientifically accurate visualizations that resemble calligraphy. Shown here, the DNA sequence which codes for human amylase, alpha 1A, salivary and its pictogram. Courtesy Ruth West



"Ecce Homology," an interactive "bioart" installation to be showcased at SIGGRAPH 2005 – in Los Angeles, July 31 through Aug. 4 – quite literally makes BLAST and genomics visible.

Headed up by new-media artist Ruth West – director of visual analytics and interactive technologies at the University of California, San Diego National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research and research associate with the UCSD Center for Research and Computing in the Arts – the "Ecce Homology" project is an ongoing collaboration among 11 biologists, artists and computer scientists from UCSD, UCLA and the University of Southern California.


Named after Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, a meditation on how one becomes what one is, the project explores human evolution by examining similarities – a.k.a. "homology" – between genes from human beings and a target organism, in this case the rice plant.

"We are living in a time when we are generating enormous amounts of genetic data," said West, who trained as a microbiologist and began her career in medical genetics. "But data is not knowledge – it’s not even information. A key concept of ’Ecce Homology’ is to make an important subject like genomics accessible to the general public."

"Ecce Homology" uses a combination of dynamic media, computer vision and computer graphics to visualize genomic data.

Custom software turns genes – incomprehensibly long strings of As, Cs, Ts and Gs – into luminous pictograms that resemble Chinese or Sanskrit calligraphy. Based on currently available biophysical information, the pictograms are scientifically accurate representations of proteins encoded for by the genes.

In the SIGGRAPH installation, the representations are rendered in a 40-foot wide and 12-foot tall space by five video projectors, with the figures for human genes/proteins shown along a vertical axis and for the rice along a horizontal.

A whole-body computer vision interface tracks the movements of visitors and allows them to interact with the installation. By moving their bodies slowly within the space, visitors can draw shimmering light-filled traces. When a trace sufficiently matches a pictogram in the human dataset, it triggers a real-time bioinformatics comparison: BLAST begins to run, searching through the rice data for a homologue – conducting in a novel (and visible) way the same sequence analysis done by scientists. Results are presented as two superimposed pictograms.

"This high-dimensional visualization reduces the complexity of sequence codes to the sorts of shapes or patterns that a human being can make sense of," West said. "It is an artistic approach to extracting what’s important. And it is also an exploration of what art might have to offer for discovery in the sciences."

"Ecce Homology" premiered in 2003 at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

At SIGGRAPH 2005, "Ecce Homology" is being showcased as part of the international conference’s Art Gallery and its Emerging Technologies program. It will also be featured in the August 2005 issue of Leonardo, an art, science and technology journal from MIT Press.

Inga Kiderra | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu
http://www.insilicov1.org/
http://www.siggraph.org/s2005/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>