Art2Cure: Art fundraiser helps to launch new associated project “MitoMap”

On June 25th 2016 at the Galerie L'Indépendance of the Banque Internationale à Luxembourg, an art exhibition showcasing 18 artists from Luxembourg was opened to the public. The event called “Art2Cure” was organised by Sabine Mosch at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) with the aim to raise awareness of, and funds for research into, Parkinson’s Disease. The art fundraiser was a great success and 30k of the funds raised have now been assigned to a new SysMedPD associated project entitled: “MitoMap: an aesthetic mitochondrial biochemical network map”, awarded to Dr. Fleming in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth John, the leader of the LCSB Scienteens Laboratory, an educational facility for outreach to high school students.

In MitoMap, we seek to draw a single map of all the molecular species and biochemical reactions in a human mitochondrion. In order to interpret the quantitative predictions made by computational models of metabolism, it is extremely valuable to be able to visualise molecular species concentrations and biochemical reaction rates in the context of a map of the underlying pathways.  However, unlike a map of the earth, there is no common geographic coordinate system for visualising biochemical networks. Our previous experience with a team of 6 first and second year undergraduate students who manually drew a large metabolic map (ReconMap, Figure 1) has shown that there is a strong aspect of aesthetics to the layout of a successful biochemical interaction map. The flow of key pathways within a biochemical map must be intuitive to a wide audience of biochemical researchers, e.g. the layout of the map must minimize the curvature of central metabolic pathways at the expense of minor pathways.

This project seeks to unite the mitochondrial metabolic pathways of ReconMap with the mitochondrial interactions within the PDMap in order to generate a comprehensive mitochondrial map entitled “MitoMap”. The underlying content of the map will be derived from ongoing reconstruction efforts by many LCSB scientists engaged in the SysMedPD project. The envisaged MitoMap would be a multipurpose tool for contextual visualisation of high throughput experimental data as well as visualization of computational modelling results.  Moreover, MitoMap will be used as a tool to communicate LCSB scientific progress with the public using animations of sequential MitoMaps with dynamically changing network properties, e.g. in response to consumption of an “energy drink” - a type of beverage containing stimulant drugs, chiefly caffeine, which is marketed as providing mental and physical stimulation, but which is associated with health concerns if excessively consumed. In addition, the project will culminate with a public outreach event where a 12pt font printed version of the map (Estimate 3 x 4.2 meters) will be unveiled, accompanied by an animation filled presentation by the project participants.

In coordination with Luxembourgish high-school science teachers, eight final year high-school students who have their final exam in May 2017 will be recruited simultaneously for a summer project from June to September.  A mixture of biologically and computationally oriented students, accepted for tertiary education, is envisaged. In addition, we shall seek to complement this group with at least two masters student. Elizabeth John would take over coordination of the students and their facilities. Scientific direction will be provided by Dr. Ronan Fleming aided by a computational biology PhD student from the Systems Biochemistry group.

  • A-Web interface of ReconMap with search functionality. Information retrieved for on a specific molecule are shown, along with external links; B - overlay of a flux distribution, using differential thickness and color of the edges; C - Feedback interface that allows users to provide suggestions and corrections to entities of the ReconMap and Recon2.
    Alberto Noronha, Anna Dröfn Daníelsdóttir, Piotr Gawron, Freyr Jóhannsson, Soffía Jónsdóttir, Sindri Jarlsson, Jón Pétur Gunnarsson, Sigur›ur Brynjólfsson, Reinhard Schneider, Ines Thiele, and Ronan M. T. Fleming. ReconMap: An interactive visualisation of human metabolism. (2016) Bioinformatics (resubmitted).