Ferric Attraction

Mar 2014

8 prints, 18" × 24"

paper, pen

pen drawings

Ferritin is an essential protein in every cell. It acts as a storage container; finely tuning the concentration of iron freely available. While critical for core cellular processes, iron is toxic and can exert a great deal of stress on a cell if not properly stored. Ferritin is a globular, sphere-like protein composed of 24 subunits that form a shell. This structure dictates the protein’s ability to hold iron.

As iron levels increase, more ferritin is produced to account for the demand. The iron-ferritin complex is so tightly bound, the protein must be disassembled for iron to escape. The process of disassembly frees the reactive iron – they can not coexist independently without adverse effects.

Atomic position data gathered by research scientists is used by software to create a 3-dimensional representation of the protein in a computer model. This form represents the highest resolution prediction of what the protein would look like if seen by the human eye. The software processes the model through a series of steps that convert it to thousands of individual lines which can be drawn onto a flat surface. The precise lines are then converted to instructions which is read by a robotic arm and drawn with archival ink.

The work is installed at the San Diego International Airport. More information about the Converging Ingenuities exhibit can be found online.