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Top cancer


Visually represent the structure-function relationship and mechanism of action involved in a molecular process


T cells play a pivotal role in the human body’s immune system. Upon interaction, the checkpoint protein Programmed Cell Death Protein-1 (PD-1) and its ligand, Programmed Cell Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1), deactivate overactive T cells. Cancer cells exploit this interaction through over-expression of PD-L1, resulting in greater tumour growth and the spread of cancer.


So, what can be done? Monoclonal antibodies such as atezolizumab and pembrolizumab are used to block the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction, reducing tumour growth and slowing the spread of cancer.


Date: July 2020

Client: Professor Derek Ng

Audience: Educated Lay Audience

Software: Maya, Chimera, Photoshop, Illustrator

Format: Didactic 2-page spread 

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Once my topic was chosen, I identified the major characters involved in the story and completed background research to gain a strong understanding of the science. I then chose which scientific elements to focus my final piece on, keeping in mind that I wanted to accurately educate the audience while also avoiding overwhelming them with scientific information. Once these elements were chosen, I created a script that would accurately tell my story.


Once I had a clear understanding of the characters in my story, I explored various visual ways to tell that story. My goal was to create a layout that would first give the audience a clear understanding of the PD-1/PD-L1 complex before guiding them through the various antibodies that are fighting against it, ensuring that they understand every component as they progress throughout the story. 


After deciding on the visual layout, I began production for my piece. I was able to locate most of the key characters in my story in the Protein Data Bank and determined that I would be able to recreate the 3D structural data of the unavailable components in I-TASSER. I then exported these key characters from Chimera into Maya, where I textured and lighted the scene before experimenting with various colour schemes and rendering. I exported the molecular close-ups from Chimera into Illustrator, along with the final rendered and Photoshop-edited scene, before adding the script and design elements to finish the piece.

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