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Bioenergetics: Art Meets Gentle Science in Sickness and in Health

Images courtesy Virginia Commonwealth University

An upcoming exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia will feature Virginia Commonwealth University faculty and students’ multimedia projects that aim to raise awareness of mitochondrial disease and the importance of healthy lifestyle choices in maintaining energy in our day-to-day-lives.

The three-month long exhibit, Bioenergetics: Art Meets Gentle Science in Sickness and in Health,” opens March 17 and will display art illustrations, sculptures, movies, computer games, teaching modules and personal reflections created by 16 students from VCU’s School of Engineering and School of the Arts. Pieces in the exhibit focus on “bioenergetics,” the study of the flow of energy in living systems within specialized cellular compartments known as “mitochondria.”

“The visceral and visual expressions in the exhibition inspires guests to learn how energy, produced by their cells’ mitochondria, is a balance of adequate diet and exercise,” says Eugene G. Maurakis, Ph.D., museum scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia. “This exhibition is unique in its use of science, technology, engineering, art and graphics to guide people from multiple viewpoints to understand that a person's energy level directly relates to their health.”

Mitochondria are the “energy powerhouses” of the cell, generating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. Yet mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of numerous diseases that affect energy production, according to Shilpa Iyer, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineeringand organizer of the bioenergetics project at VCU.

“We created this exhibition to increase awareness in our community because recent scientific reports have highlighted the increasing proportion of childhood obesity and mitochondrial diseases, leading to energy failures,” she said. “An urgent cell-to-society integrative approach is needed to address this problem, to increase awareness for improving nutrition and bioenergetics of young children and their families, and ultimately improve the quality of life.”

The exhibit is the culmination of a collaborative project launched by like-minded faculty in the Schools of Engineering and Arts to devise an approach that would take advantage of different perspectives and training to educate the public about bioenergetics, mitochondria and healthy lifestyle.

Article by Brian McNeill and originally published on VCU News. Click here to read the full article.