AS&K does some phenomenal science and medical animation. I have no idea what these things are, but I sure want to know. And isn’t that what good illustration does?
These are absolutely stunning! Let’s see if I can decode some of the biology behind the illustrations for you.
Top: This one’s tough. I couldn’t find any specific details, but it looks like a representation of a dying cell to me. When cellular machinery detects a serious problem (infection, out of control growth signals, gene instability, etc.) the apoptosis machinery is activated. Apoptosis (you can either say “ay-pop-toe-sis” or “ay-puh-toe-sis”) comes from the Greek words for “falling away”, alluding to how leaves are programmed to die and fall off of trees every winter. The characteristic blebs of the dying cell can be seen, as the cell disintegrates.
Middle left: Certain kinds of immune cells consume foreign invaders and debris for a living, like the body’s trash collectors. These phagocytes migrate out of the blood stream in response to a sign of infection. Signals from the infected tissue allow the blood vessels to dilate and tiny pores to form, allowing the flexible phagocytes to crawl away to do battle using their long finger-like projections.
Middle right: HIV virus particles are attacking a CD4+ T-cell, the type of immune cell that they infect and the loss of which results in AIDS. The virus has proteins on its surface (the green and red spikes) that help it latch on to specific receptors on the T-cell surface (the mushroom-like basket things).
Bottom: Our cells are covered in hundreds of different receptors, surface markers and scaffold molecules. This is what allows them to take on a specific structure, as well as communicate with each other. Embedded in the plasma membrane (the blue, water-loving heads and green, oily lipids that make up our cell package), these receptors and surface proteins are thought to be organized into lipid rafts in order to keep them nearby other receptors and proteins that they work and communicate with.