Embracing the art of science

Dec 05, 2012
Hearing and Deafness: Structure and Sequence, is an art work by Prof. Karen Avraham and Shaked Shivatzki. Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Creativity is essential part for both art and scientific investigation. Two Tel Aviv University researchers recently embraced this truth to give birth to a new artwork based on their genetics research—and now it's won a top prize.

The fine arts and the exact sciences may appear an unlikely pair, but creativity is a crucial element in both. Prof. Karen Avraham and PhD candidate Shaked Shivatzki of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine embraced this truth when creating Hearing and : Structure and Sequence, their winning submission to the recent American Society of Human Genetics art competition. Their work was awarded first place and graces the cover of the society's most recent journal.

Their creation uses modern techniques in genetic diagnostics. An image of a mouse cochlea, with cells stained with antibodies to denote the different types of cells and their function in the ear, makes up the background. In the foreground are of a gene that, when mutated, causes deafness, which symbolizes deep sequencing, an advanced technique used to reveal variances in or RNA.

The contest rules were simple, explains Prof. Avraham—create a piece that combines genetics and art to reveal the aesthetic beauty in scientific research. "It's very important to teach the public about science, and one of the ways to do this is to show them the beauty of the field. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and can explain scientific concepts in a clearer way," she said.

This is Prof. Karen Avraham and Shaked Shivatzki of Tel Aviv University. Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Beauty is truth ...

Essentially, the image is a tribute to deep sequencing, a technology used to describe the major components of the human genome, DNA. It's one of the most important tools in genetic diagnostics today, says Prof. Avraham, revolutionizing the hunt for . By finding the mutations responsible for human disease, scientists can diagnose disorders in a way that was impossible before. Israel has been one of the pioneering countries in the use of this technology.

Before deep sequencing, it would take a number of years and millions of dollars to sequence a genome. Now, it takes a matter of weeks, and can be done for the comparatively low cost of about $1,000. Not only does this mean greater access to genetic diagnosis, family planning, and medical management of disorders caused by genetic mutations, it also puts researchers on the right path in terms of developing therapeutic treatment.

The gene featured in the image is called Connexin 26. It is now known that mutations in this gene are the most common cause for deafness, found in about 30 percent of the hearing impaired population in Israel, says Prof. Avraham. Much of the early work in terms of diagnosing this mutation was done in Israel and at TAU, she adds. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health NIDCD and I-CORE Gene Regulation in Complex Human Disease.

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Diagnosing hearing loss at a fraction of the time and cost

Sep 14, 2011

Over 28 million Americans are hearing impaired, and 50 percent of these cases can be traced to genetic causes. The condition can be especially challenging for children born hearing impaired because spoken language, reading, ...

Scaling the wall of deafness

Apr 14, 2009

Despite modern medicine, one in 1,000 American babies are born deaf. The numbers increase markedly with age, with more than 50% of seniors in the United States experiencing some form of hearing loss.

New test can screen all deafness genes simultaneously

Nov 15, 2010

Pinpointing the exact genetic cause of inherited deafness has always involved sequencing one gene at a time, a process that can take up to a year and cost roughly $1,000 per gene. It would cost around $75,000 to test all ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

18 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

21 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

21 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

B__
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2012
Meh. Weak points on composition and use of of shading (the image looks quite degraded) and this resolution is far too low for me to appreciate that which I presume is quite dense.
It still seems that for mainstream science art is reducible to images and aesthetics, and is therefore simply a method of rendering the products of science, not an enquiry in itself.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2012
picture is worth a thousand words, and can explain scientific concepts in a clearer way
My experience is, even the pile of fancy pictures and BBC animations didn't lead the layman people to better understanding of string theory - on the contrary. The pictures must be faithful physically for to have an explanatory effect - otherwise they're rather misleading. And I don't understand, how the composition of letters into picture of Connexin may explain something about it.
flashgordon
not rated yet Dec 06, 2012
i wonder who many Israelites have heard of Jacob Bronowski;

The picture looks like a genetic version of a spiral that appears on the cover of Hermann Weyl's "Symmetry" book; i doubt these two have even heard of Hermann Weyl!

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...