Edinburgh start-up creates world’s first fluorescent protein 3D hologram to further biomedical research

A University of Edinburgh based start-up company has created the world’s first 3D hologram based on the properties of a Nobel Prize winning scientific discovery, which enhances biomedical research into the behavioural activity of proteins.

Holoxica, who specialise in holography and 3D display, has made the world’s first ever medical imaging hologram of a green fluorescent protein (or GFP) structure, allowing scientists to visualise the structure without any glasses or other visual aids.  This is crucial for biologists and chemists whose understanding of molecule properties depends on appreciating their 3D structures and reinforces why 3D visualisation tools are vitally important in biomedical research.

Green fluorescent protein is used to ‘tag’ other proteins to make them glow luminously, allowing scientists to watch their movement and interaction with other cells. GFP was originally isolated from bioluminescent jellyfish and glows green when it is exposed to light.

The discovery of green fluorescent protein led to 2008 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for three eminent scientists - Roger Tsien, a professor at the University of California, San Diego; Martin Chalfie of Columbia University; and Osamu Shimomura, a Japanese researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, who were recognised for their work in advancing understanding of the machinery inside living cells.

Holoxica is able to take a molecular description from the Protein Data Base (PDB) containing all the necessary atomic and positional information to describe the structure. The resulting holograms are geometrically accurate and to scale. Any type of structure can be created in any orientation including the popular ribbon structure or ball-and-stick atomic models. The hologram’s 3D image appears in mid-air and changes perspective as you move around it. 

Javid Khan, managing director of Holoxica comments, “In developing this world first, we anticipate this 3D modelling will enable the global biochemical community to visualise the complexities of molecules or proteins in a far more detailed way.

He added: It’s even possible to do some animation where the structure can be rotated as the viewer moves around the hologram or it can peel away to reveal underlying structures from different angles.”


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