Bio-nano visualisation
Signature Project

Project leaders

Associate Professor, John McGhee (UNSW), Professor Tom Davis (Monash), Professor Maria Kavallaris (UNSW)

The big questions

  • Can the use of 3D computer visualisation provide greater insight in to the mechanisms of internalisation of a drug delivery system?
  • Can Virtual Reality (VR) through the use of Head Mounted Displays (HMD) provide improved modes of communication and education of the scientific data?

Research outline

The therapeutic effect of most drugs occur in specific locations within the cell, so the intracellular fate of the drug is vital. Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms involved in internalisation of the delivery systems, as they play a significant role in the intracellular trafficking and chemical environment that the therapeutic cargo is exposed to. Research in this area is a critical part of the Delivery Systems and Vaccines application areas within the CBNS.

Internalisation of particles and intracellular trafficking are extremely complex processes. Describing such processes, even to scientifically literate audiences, presents a significant challenge to researchers in this field. Visualisation tools available to assist in describing the processes are quite limited.

Intracellular processes are often presented as complicated 2D diagrams of whole cells, with schematic representations of proteins, organelles and other intracellular components. Images produced by uorescence microscopy, whilst rich in data and information, require expert interpretation and would not be readily understood by a student audience.

The latest developments in Virtual Reality (VR) and consumer Head Mounted Displays (HMD), such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have made it possible for users to be completely immersed in 3D datasets. Pilot research work carried out within UNSW 3D Visualisation Aesthetics Lab (strategically funded through the CBNS), has demonstrated that raw scan data can be post-processed and displayed in 3D VR.