David S. Goodsell is an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Both a researcher and an artist, Goodsell creates beautiful pictures of intracellular machinery alongside his scientific experimentation to help everyone visualise molecular and cell biology in a different - and stunningly beautiful - way.
When asked about his work, Goodsell responded, “Biological systems are a source of constant amazement for me. I use a combination of hand-drawn and computer graphics illustrations to reveal the invisible world of molecules inside cells. Computer graphics is a perfect way to display the atomic details of biological molecules. Using experimental coordinates determined by x-ray crystallography or other methods, we can see the position of every atom, and examine how they work together to catalyze a reaction or carry genetic information.”
His paintings are usually created through ink drawing and watercolour, taking inspiration from computer models and graphics of cells. The images shown here are six illustrations commissioned as a project for Biosite.
Top left: This illustration shows a portion of basement membrane, a structure that forms the support between tissues in the body. It is composed of a network of collagen (yellow green), laminin (blue-green cross-shaped molecules), and proteoglycans (deep green, with three arms).
Top right: A small portion of cytoplasm is shown, including three types of filaments that make up the cytoskeleton: a microtubule (the largest), an intermediate filament (the knobby one) and two actin filaments (the smallest ones). The large blue molecules are ribosomes, busy in their task of synthesising proteins. The large protein at bottom center is a proteosome.
Middle left: Blood serum is shown in the picture, with many Y-shaped antibodies, large circular low density lipoproteins, and lots of small albumin molecules. The large fibrous structure at lower left is von Willebrand factor and the long molecules in red are fibrinogen, both of which are involved in blood clotting. The blue object is poliovirus.
Middle right: Part of a muscle sarcomere is shown here, with actin filaments in blue and myosin filaments in red. The long yellow proteins are the huge protein titin.
Bottom left: This view shows DNA being replicated in the nucleus. DNA polymerase is shown at the center in purple, with a DNA strand entering from the bottom and exiting as two strands towards the top. The new strands are shown in white. Chromatin fibers are shown at either site of the replication fork.
Bottom right: A portion of a red blood cell is shown in this illustration, with the cell membrane at the top, and lots of hemoglobin (red) at the bottom.
All images courtesy of David. S. Goodsell, whose homepage can be found here.