Hijacking natural systems

9 May 2011

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The human body is an amazing thing, and there are some amazing things to be done with cells from the human body.

The images above show how live cells being used in world-leading research and taken from microscope images and live cell signalling can be manipulated into a variety of shapes, drawings and animations.

The process has been a long and exhaustive one and has involved the artist, Jo Berry, moving into unchartered territories as an undergraduate research student for six months, working with cutting edge technology on research that scientists hope will help sufferers of conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

The process included interpreting microscope images and live cell signalling to find out more about how drugs work within individual cells.

The research, being carried out at the Nottingham University School of Biomedical Sciences, involves assessing how the hunger hormone ghrelin stimulates human cells, potentially paving the way for new drug treatments for obesity and diabetes by “turning on and off hunger”.

Those images were taken by Berry back to her studio in Carsington, Derbyshire, and she manipulated them to create a series of short films, vinyl drawing and multi-layered lightboxes.

The crossover between art and science and the process involved in evidence-gathering was the main draw for Berry, with the work being assisted by grants from the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.

“It’s about the process of working in a facility where they are doing such important research, and taking that research, its software and imagery to create something cutting edge and entirely different has been incredible,” she said.

“I was able to play about with colour, cutting and pasting, speeding up and slowing down films, making stereo images and looking at cells from different three-dimensional views – taking the science and software and approaching it from a different angle.

“The project is celebrating the human body, the use of new technology, the collaboration between science and art, and also gives the public the opportunity to see art in a non-traditional setting.

“The hormone we studied is in us all, helping us decide when to eat, so the inspiration behind the work is part of everyone. I really want people who do not usually go to art galleries to come along and enjoy what they see, and see how exciting putting science and art together can be.”

The project, called Hijacking Natural Systems, goes on show in Derby from July 2011, before moving to Nottingham.

Hijacking Natural Systems was funded in part by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award. More details of Jo and her work can be found at www.joberry.co.uk and www.joberry-artist.blogspot.com.