INESSASTANISHEVSKAYA | biomedical communication

Background | Neuroblasts are specialized cells that arise from neural stem cells and differentiate into neurons in mammalian brains. Previously it was believed that neuroblasts were only present during embryonic development; however, it has recently been established that these cells continue to produce neurons throughout adulthood by means of a specific migratory pattern in the brain, known as the rostral migratory stream (RMS).

What’s particularly interesting is that during certain pathological conditions, most notably stroke, this migratory pattern is altered as some neuroblasts redirect themselves towards the area of damage; however, few of them successfully reach and differentiate in the damaged region. This phenomenon has intrigued Dr. Armen Saghatelyan’s group at the Neurophotonics Institute at the University of Laval in Quebec, Canada, to look into harnessing the brain’s naturally occurring, yet inefficient, self-healing capability to be used in regenerative therapies for stroke, which is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in North America. Through their study of the normal cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in neuroblast migration, they hope to learn how to successfully redirect and enhance differentiation of neuroblasts in regions of the brain damaged by stroke in order to restore function and stimulate recovery.

Purpose | The goal of my project was to develop a three-dimensional (3D) animation in Autodesk Maya that acted as both an educational and promotional platform for this research. I believe that this dynamic five minute animation is an ideal means of quickly disseminating and increasing accessibility of these discoveries to other research scientists, incoming graduate students, and funding agencies in order to kindle collaboration, inspire future directions, and potentially increase monetary investment.

Content Overview | This animation focuses on the mechanisms of migration of neuroblasts in the adult brain, including molecular cues, the development of the vasculature inside the rostral migratory stream from neonates to adults, the migratory changes that occur during stroke, and the potential role that this knowledge may play in the development of regenerative therapies.

Funding | This project is generously funded by the NSERC CREATE Training Program in Biophotonics scholarship from the Neurophotonics Centre as well as The Vesalius Trust for Visual Communication in the Health Sciences.

Storyboard | As part of the process of developing an animation, storyboard panels are created to figure out what content will be included, how cameras will be positioned, what type of models and effects will be needed, and how long scenes will last. Below are some of my selected panels: