In our research, we are inspired by the vastly intriguing processes in biology. The phenomenon portrayed in our image is an excellent example. It shows how proteins that attach to the biological membrane may cause its dramatic shape changes. In our example, what was initially a vesicle, a sphere, now has a reticular structure. We obtained this image by combining computational simulations and electron microscopy in which we can observe the dynamics of biological membranes at both very long and very short time scales. This brings us to another aspect we aimed to depict in our image – the multiscale nature of biological processes. The interactions at the level of molecules affect the very large scale geometry of the membrane. In our image, you can see the protein molecules interacting at short range to form patterns that drive the formation of membrane tubules. We would like to convey with our image that combining theoretical and experimental research in a multiscale fashion is the best way of tackling the complex and seemingly intractable biological problems. Besides not only teaching us the underlying mechanisms of these processes, it gives us a molecular view of remarkable biological structures. We hope we can inspire many future scientists to push the limits of multiscale simulations and imaging techniques to access the most complex of cellular phenomena. You may see more of such examples from our research at vothgroup.uchicago.edu.
– Written by Greg Voth of The Voth Group