From Babraham to Karlsruhe: Chromos goes global
Edit (August 2018): The Open Codes exhibit relaunches as Open Codes: The World as a Field of Data on 1st September 2018, running until 6th January 2019. CHROMOS continues to be part of the exhibit along with many other displays.
In March we revealed Chromos to the world. The collaboration between our scientists, musician Max Cooper and visual artist Andy Lomas has proven to be a hugely popular attraction, pulling crowds at both the Cambridge Science Festival and in London at the Science Museum Lates in September. The popularity of Chromos stems from its appeal, not just to scientists, but to music fans and Virtual Reality (VR) lovers too.
Chromos has been developed with the help of Institute Group Leader Dr Mikhail Spivakov and features the computer modelling work of Dr Csilla Varnai. It consists of flowing ribbons of light that over time twist and contort themselves into new and different shapes. This visual display represents a process used by Dr Varnai to understand how genetic code fits inside cells.
Our genes are stored on long strands of DNA, and in fact, each human cell contains around two metres of it split into 46 pieces of DNA called chromosomes. All of this needs to fit into the nucleus of a cell, less than 1/100th of a millimetre across. While the issue of how the DNA fits into the nucleus is relatively well studied, our scientists want to know what effect this has on the genes themselves. In order for different types of cell to function and look different, some genes need to be turned on in a cell and others need to be turned off, and it seems that moving genes about inside the cell can affect how active they are.
The one-night-only Science Museum Lates events attract thousands of people and Chromos drew crowds from start to finish. Its popularity with a range of audiences has been astounding and Max’s musical compositions are now available for Chromos fans to download.
Dr Varnai, who’s research is at the heart of Chromos, said: “It’s extremely gratifying to have so many new people take an interest in my work. People have different perspectives on what we’re doing and how it could be used and it’s exciting to hear these different ideas and think about how they could help us develop our science further.”
From today, Chromos is going global and, for the first time, the full virtual reality experience will be on long-term display outside of the UK. Chromos is becoming part of the Open Codes exhibition at the Centre for Art and Media (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie; ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. Expected to run until 5th August 2018, Open Codes is a celebration of codes in the modern world. From computer programming languages and binary to the genes and the genome, codes seem to be a common aspect of many of the greatest recent advances in science and technology. Open Codes brings together arts and science from around the world to highlight the role of different codes in our everyday lives and the parts codes could play in our future.
Speaking about the event, Dr Tacita Croucher, Public Engagement Manager at the Babraham Institute said: “It’s fantastic that the Chromos project has captured the imagination of so many people, particularly those who may have not previously had the opportunity to explore our research. The Babraham Institute is committed to finding new and exciting ways to share its research, with this project we’re able to showcase cutting-edge research with cutting-edge technology – allowing people to visualise and climb inside DNA.”
For research enquiries: Dr Jonathan Lawson, Babraham Institute Communications Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
For requests relating to Max Cooper and Andy Lomas: Rosalie email@example.com
Image source: All Chromos images were created by and are copyright of Andy Lomas.
About the Babraham Institute:
The Babraham Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to undertake world-class life sciences research. It's goal is to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Research focuses on signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing.