Baby Steps

I am coming along in my Maya 3D modeling class, slowly but surely. We are to continue to fill in our “space” with more objects, environment, lighting and texture. I still feel at the beginning stages of this modeling process, because I am having trouble making my DNA look like DNA. But I have a vision, which is a good start.

DNA is a helical thing, with a repetitive pattern that looks like a ladder if you untwist it.

A cartoon by a British cartoonist named Chris Madden- check him out!

It sounds easy to model, right? Well it kindof depends on how I choose to represent it.  There are many different ways to depict DNA, including the very simplistic stick figure version seen above. There is also the “ribbon” depiction, where the sides of the dna ladder are depicted by two ribbons winding around each other, with the rungs connecting them.

Image created from Chimera, an application that visualizes chemisty

Then there is the more complicated representation of DNA, where all of the atoms are visualized but they still are shown in “ball and stick” mode:

Chimera showing all atoms

Another way to depict DNA is to take what we know about its properties, and fill out the structure based on these properties. For example, we know that the parallel “ribbons” of DNA are hydrophilic, which means they like and attract water molecules.  The interior “rungs” of the DNA are very hydrophobic and hate water. So they are hugged by the hydrophilic parts of the ladder. Interactions between atoms within DNA, and therefore DNA structure, are very dependent on these properties. Here’s an example of a space-filling model based on hydrophobic properties:

Chimera Hydrophobicity model

So I’m trying to figure out how to depict the DNA in my model. I think I prefer the last way I showed, because it’s very pretty! And gives a little thickness and substance to DNA. So I’m working on it…

Current status of my DNA. View 1.

Current status of my DNA. View 2.

Current status of my DNA. View 3.Current status of my DNA. View 4. You can see the DNA wrapped around the histone complex.

It still doesn’t look very helical at this point, so I’ll be trying some things to fix that!

Lastly, I want to show an animation created by a former student at my program, Blair Lyons, who is now working at a company out in Vancouver as an intern creating animations. I happened to come across this beautiful animation she just finished, which depicts DNA and translation.  Check it out!

Very inspiring.

Picutre of author

About Claire Shapleigh, Biomedical Visualization

Hi, my name is Claire and I'm in my second year of the Biomedical Visualization MS program at UIC. It's a combination of art and science, and it's pretty fun. So far I've dissected a human body and learned how to draw in 2D using a computer AND my hand, and I'm about to learn how to 3D model. Holler at me if you have any questions about the program!

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