Researchers collaborate with students in protein art project

Protein art by school pupils on display at the Protein Data Bank in Europe, Hinxton

Protein art by school pupils on display at the Protein Data Bank in Europe, Hinxton - Credit: Protein Data Bank in Europe

"Proteins are the building blocks of life and art is all about experiencing it - the two go hand in hand," says Deepti Gupta.

Deepti, an archivist and scientist, is part of a team trying get art students to be inspired by biology.

To do this, she has helped set up a digital exhibition at the Protein Data Bank in Europe - which is based at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton - to showcase artwork by pupils in East Anglia.

Deepti said: "By looking into proteins, art students get closer to science in a whole new way.

"And we as scientists can look at proteins in a whole new way when we look at art produced by young people."

Young artists from Saffron Walden, Cambridge, Sawbridgeworth and Sudbury, and a college in Australia, contributed to the exhibition.

Joshua Wenley from Saffron Walden County High School created artwork based on a protein called HER2, which stimulates cell growth and is associated with cancer.

A piece of abstract art based on the HER2 cancer cell by Joshua Wenley, Saffron Walden County High School

HER2 by Joshua Wenley, Year 12 at Saffron Walden County High School - Credit: Protein Data Bank in Europe/Joshua Wenley

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Joshua's caption reads: "I chose this protein as cancer is an illness that devastated our family after my father passed away in 2019. 

"The idea was to find beauty in something so frightening.

"I have learnt a lot about HER2 and cancer, particularly the way it destroys human cells.  "

Merryn Rush, also from SWCHS, created artwork based on TMC1, associated with hearing loss.

She said: "I have a hearing loss and wanted to explore this further.

"I learnt that there is a protein that is linked to hearing and sound waves.

"I used photoshop, sewing and I used a torch to create the sound waves images and used a digital camera to take a picture of them."

An artwork called Changing Emotion by Kasey Graham in Australia, inspired by part of the dopamine protein

Changing Emotion, an artwork inspired by beta-hydroxylase which is part of the dopamine protein, by Kasey Graham at Viewbank College, Australia - Credit: Protein Data Bank in Europe/Kasey Graham

An image of a rabbit inspired by enzyme GAPDH by Charlotte Waite at Saffron Walden County High School

Artwork based on an enzyme named GAPDH by Charlotte Waite, Year 12 at Saffron Walden County High School - Credit: Protein Data Bank in Europe/Charlotte Waite

The exhibition has taken place each year since 2017 and has grown in size since its inception.

Deepti said: "The students from the County High's Year 12 should be really proud."

She added: "Researching proteins is important because we can ultimately cure diseases."

The Protein Data Bank in Europe models and catalogues different biological structures and makes the information available for scientists worldwide.

The exhibition is online: https://www.ebi.ac.uk/pdbe/pdb-art

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