Bio-nano visualisation

Project leader

Dr John McGhee

Big questions

How do we create multi-user and multi-site digital 3D VR environments that support simultaneous interaction of the same post-processed microscope dataset?
How can we develop visualisation VR tools that allow scientists to ‘drag-and-drop’ microscope data directly on to 3D VR head mounted displays (HMA) platforms?
Does immersive 3D VR with HMA immersive environments improve comprehension of complex cellular processes?
Do 3D VR arts-led visualisation approaches actually improve communication of nanoparticle uptake and interactions within cell systems?
What role does Art & Design play in constructing the interactive narrative in VR? If we widen access to the underlying science how far should we augment the data in pursuit of a narrative?
Ultimately can 3D VR HMA arts and design led visualisation approaches provide an aide beyond communication and support the drug delivery process?


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 fluorescence microscopy, whilst rich in data and information, require expert interpretation and would not be readily understood by a scientific audience.

The latest developments in VR HMA (HTC Vive and Oculus Rift) have made it possible and accessible for users to be completely immersed in 3D datasets. Pilot research work carried out within the CBNS (initial strategic project funding) has demonstrated that raw scan data can be post-processed and displayed in 3D VR. In this case sectioned  electron microscope (EM) data of migratory cancer cell. However to make a more significant impact on the field further development and analysis is required.