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Trends Cell Biol. 2010 Dec;20(12):699-704. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2010.08.005. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Animating the model figure.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In all branches of scientific inquiry, researchers build models that enable them to visualize, formulate and communicate their hypotheses to others. In cell biology, our conceptual understanding of a process is typically embodied in a model figure. These visual models should ideally represent pre-existing knowledge of molecular interactions, movement, structure and localization but, in reality, they often fall short. Cell biologists have begun to look to the use of three-dimensional animation to visualize and describe complex molecular and cellular events. In addition to aiding teaching and communication, animation is emerging as a powerful tool for providing researchers with insight into the processes that they study. Two case studies focusing on the structure/function of the motor protein dynein and the structure of the centriole are discussed.

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