3D modelling and visualisation of heterogeneous cell membranes in Blender

Mehmood Ghaffar, Karsten Klein, Niklas Biere, Falk Schreiber, Björn Sommer, Daniel Jäger, Olaf Kruse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch

5 Citations (Scopus)


Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells have been in the focus of research for more than a decade, in particular due to its use as alternative source for energy production. However, the molecular processes in these cells are still not completely known, and 3D visualisations may help to understand these complex interactions and processes. In previous work, we presented the stereoscopic 3D (S3D) visualisation of a complete Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cell created with the 3D modelling framework Blender. This animation contained already a scene showing an illustrative membrane model of the thylakoid membrane. During discussion with domain experts, shortcomings of the visualisation for several detailed analysis questions have been identified and it was decided to redefine it. A new modelling and visualisation pipeline based on a Membrane Packing Algorithm was developed, which can be configured via a user interface, enabling the composition of membranes employing published material. An expert user study was conducted to evaluate this new approach, with half the participants having a biology and the other half having an informatics background. The new and old Chlamydomonas thylakoid membrane models were presented on a S3D back projection system. The evaluation results reveal that the majority of participants preferred the new, more realistic membrane visualisation. However, the opinion varied with the expertise, leading to valuable conclusions for future visualisations. Interestingly, the S3D presentation of molecular structures lead to a positive change in opinion regarding S3D technology.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVINCI 2018 - The 11th International Symposium on Visual Information Communication and Interaction
EditorsKarsten Klein, Andreas Kerren
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781450365017
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Symposium on Visual Information Communication and Interaction 2018 - Vaxjo, Sweden
Duration: 13 Aug 201815 Aug 2018
Conference number: 11th
https://dl.acm.org/doi/proceedings/10.1145/3231622 (Proceedings)


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Visual Information Communication and Interaction 2018
Abbreviated titleVINCI 2018
Internet address


  • Bioinformatics
  • Cell modelling
  • Cell visualization
  • Membrane packing problems
  • Stereoscopic 3D visualization

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