Theme leader: Dr John McGhee, University of New South Wales

The therapeutic effect of most drugs occurs in specific locations within the cell so an understanding of the intracellular fate of the drug is vital. The processes by which a particle carrying a drug is internalised to, and trafficked within, a cell are extremely complex. Describing such processes, even to scientifically literate audiences, presents a significant challenge to researchers as the visualisations tools available to assist in describing the processes are quite limited.

Dr John McGhee, a 3D visual art academic, is leading the collaborative activities within the CBNS to understand whether 3D virtual reality visualisation can provide clearer insight into intercellular drug deployment processes. 

He and his team create high quality 3D animations to visualise the complex processes that occur within cells. They collaborate with CBNS scientists, using electron microscopy and other data to provide ultra high resolution renderings of cells and sub-cellular structures. 

The project is also generating a virtual reality experience where, using a headset, a user can experience the 'journey to the centre of the cell', moving around the real structures within and sharing the same experience as a particle delivery drugs within a cell. 

The outputs from these Visualisation activities enhance the CBNS understanding of the intracellular processes. When complete the animations and virtual reality experience will form part of our public engagement activities.

Image (top): a cell, rendered in high resolution, using electron microscopy data from Professor Rob Parton, UQ.

Image (bottom): immersive virtual reality—the view from inside a cell.