CGI Molecular Biochemistry Videos from the SENS Research Foundation

Modern computer-generated imagery has improved by leaps and bounds at the same pace as biotechnology, both driven by the same underlying trend towards ever-increasing and ever-cheaper processing power. This has led to something of a renaissance in the visualization of cellular biology, conveniently occurring at exactly the same time as researchers assemble far more accurate and complete data on the structures and processes involved. Popular science publications have been able to move far beyond static images, and nowadays high-quality video representations of organs, tissues, and cells are commonplace. Bear in mind that there is a still a great deal of interpretation and artistry involved in the creation of such things, however. They are built based on the best of today's knowledge, which is an ever-changing target these days, false colors are generously employed for clarity, and scenes may be greatly simplified so as to remove other elements that in reality exist but are not essential to the point being made. The map is not the territory.

That said, I think you'll find this selection of short videos interesting. They were commissioned by the SENS Research Foundation, and each gives a high level overview of the cellular biology relating to one particular ongoing research program aimed at producing treatments for the causes of degenerative aging.

Reversing Heart Disease

This video, narrated by actor Edward James Olmos, describes the process that causes heart disease and highlights a promising intervention that SENS Research Foundation is funding. The video begins with an explanation of cholesterol particles that can become trapped in blood vessels and the patrolling macrophages that normally remove them. However, the macrophages struggle to process oxidized cholesterol. This problem causes the macrophages to die, and the resulting foam cells form atherosclerotic plaques, which ultimately cause heart attacks and strokes. SRF is funding research into an enzyme that would enable macrophages to degrade these oxidized cholesterol particles, thereby rescuing the macrophages, preventing plaque buildup, and possibly even reversing the atherosclerotic process.

Stopping Cancer at the Starting Line

Narrated by actor Edward James Olmos, this video describes one of the body's critical anti-cancer defences - the telomeres. These caps on the ends of our chromosomes shorten each time a cell divides and, when they become too short, trigger the cell to self-destruct. When a cell grows too rapidly, it and all of its descendants normally suffer this fate. Such growths are sometimes called "pre-cancer". Since our stem cells need to be able to divide without this constraint in order to replace cells lost across the body, they produce the enzyme telomerase to re-extend their telomeres. Unfortunately, a small number of pre-cancerous cells manage to activate their own copies of the telomerase gene, escaping the limit on their growth. SENS Research Foundation is developing therapies to completely block telomere extension in pre-cancerous cells, ensuring the body's existing defences can function as intended.

Preventing Mitochondrial Aging

Actor Edward James Olmos narrates this short introduction to the mitochondria, the tiny organelles that 'burn' oxygen and nutrients to power our cells, before considering how during aging that same process can damage mitochondrial DNA - eventually causing the host cell to go into decline. Mitochondrial mutations are strongly implicated in several age-related conditions including Parkinson's disease and "sarcopenia", the gradual loss of muscle experienced even by active seniors. SENS Research Foundation is developing a therapy to prevent the failure of all such cells by placing backup copies of key mitochondrial genes in the cell's nucleus, where they are much better protected. With such a backup in place, damage to the mitochondrial DNA becomes irrelevant, and the cell can return to normal healthy function.

Can I get the source 3D models for this? I want to make a Virtual Reality version for the Oculus Rift.

Posted by: Carl at June 21st, 2015 2:31 PM

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