D.N. izzay

DNA! Is the coolest! And I’m gonna draw it! Well, I’m gonna piece it together, in a 3D modeling fashion. I’m inspired by people like Drew Berry and David Bolinsky. They are innovators in the field of visualizing biochemistry. Which is hard to do, I’ve found. It’s one thing to takes notes in my biochemistry class and memorize stick figures that represent the elements of our body, and maybe even try to day-dream about molecular interactions, but it’s another to put it down on paper (or a screen)–to so certainly “record” something we can’t see with our eyes.

So I turned in a very rough first draft today of the scene I’m trying to create. Picture this: you’re a DNA molecule. You’re all wrapped up and cozy in a chromosome, drifting along in the nucleus. You find yourself unraveling, which is a normal occurrence during the beginning stages of replication- you have to unravel to let the enzymes work their magic and create an exact copy of you. But something’s wrong! The part of you that codes for growth and replication of the cell you’re in is being forced to unwind by these little annoying guys called “methyl groups.” The methyl groups are binding to you (and to the histones, around which you’re wrapped) and causing you to unwind to allow for unlimited replication! Being in an unwound, or relaxed state, you’re exposed to all the transcription enzymes that transcribe away- the first step in the creation of proteins and cell growth.

Next thing you know, you wake up and you’re in a tumor. Why? What happened? Well, those little methyl groups (and a few other elements that affect the structure of you and your fellow DNA molecules) have caused chaos.

Don’t get me wrong- methyl groups aren’t evil. In fact, they’re job is to regulate the structure of DNA by binding to it, and in doing so they are essential to life. But usually, cells in which the methyl groups get mixed up like this are killed immediately. This time, however, in this one specific cell, the genes that code for these regulators have been blocked by some of the same mechanisms that caused the unlimited transcription of YOU (because you’re still the DNA molecule.) It’s like a double whammy! It’s like a house party with no supervision. Things have gotten out of hand.

So this is new research. Whereas before we blamed the sequence of the gene itself on tumors, now we blame the structure- the winding and unwinding. So I’d like to try to depict an aspect of this mechanism in a 3D model. I started creating the DNA molecule and the histones in the background. You can’t really tell what’s going on yet, but you can get a sense of the scene…

That’s all for now!

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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