Screenshot from "Cancer is not one disease" by Kate Patterson.

Cancer is not one disease

The stuff that happens within our bodies, within our organs, within their cells, within the DNA – that’s the stuff life is made of. To the naked eye it is invisible. Even to an eye equipped with a microscope it can be exceedingly difficult to discern, particularly when it comes to observing changes over time.

Animation can be the tool to change all that. Scientifically accurate imagery doesn’t have to be boring or difficult to understand, and there are artist-scientists out there whose work is proving exactly that.

Meet Dr Kate Patterson, a biomedical animator who works for the Garvan Institute in Sydney. An experienced science communicator with a PhD in cancer biology, Kate works with cutting edge animation software to create 3D imagery of the molecular workings inside our cells. Not only are these animations visually impressive, they’re also completely scientifically accurate. If we could enter the cells as extremely little people and look at what’s going on, that’s what it would look like. Except, we’d need flashlights, it’s probably pretty dark inside a cell.

Kate’s latest work is a short documentary showing some of the complexity that surrounds the beginnings of cancer in the human body. Here is the abstract:

Over a long period of time, molecular ‘mistakes’ can accumulate in a cell, which increases the risk of cancer. There are thousands of molecular mistakes that can occur in cancer and every cancer is unique. Now, these specific mistakes can be detected in individual cancer patients, which is providing new hope for the future of personalised cancer treatment. 

The video is one of the three animations recently released by the VIZBI project.

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