Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

The Sodium Potassium Pump

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I recently worked with Laura Crothers to create a representation of the sodium potassium pump.  I’ve attached a labeled still shot here, and the full animation is attached at the bottom.  We decided to show this process by creating a looping animation that students could watch, and then continue to watch for specific details while answering questions.  The animation itself was created in Illustrator and After Effects and loads into our IBIS pages as a looping swf.  The style was intentionally minimized for clarity, and uses some common portrayals of the sodium and potassium ions.  By creating an ongoing looping animation, the process is able to be taken in gradually by the student and then focused on in specific ways as lead by the questions, or by an instructor.  Students may focus at one point on the chaotic nature of ions bouncing about throughout the process and that only the right fitting ion is transported across the cell membrane.  Or they may choose to focus on the timing of ATP to release the trapped potassium ions and collect new sodium ions for release outside of the cell.  Laura was even able to find out the exact point in the process where the single phosphate releases, so that we could include that level of accuracy in our portrayal.

I think this animation will be a strong teaching tool for students who are learning about this process.  The bright colors and clean lines make it appear less complicated (a style that Amber Jonker helped establish in previous work on the cell membrane), but the cycling view allows students to absorb further levels of complexity on repeat viewing.  A student may or may not notice that one sodium ion is released and only then do the other two release when the sodium ions are released to the extracellular side.  But if a professor wants to talk about that nuance, the stage is set for that conversation.  Or if a student is focusing on the basic sodium out and potassium in exchange, they can keep their focus there.

This video embedding shows a single loop of the animation, which runs two cycles of the pump.


Written by Sara

September 29th, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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