Protein Models as tools for STEM Education

We’ve known college students enjoy using protein models as tools for STEM Education and learn equally well from both computer-aided molecular visualization software as they do physical models. Could the same apply to grade-school children?

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Hemoglobin Gets Its Own Action Figure

Shortly after creating the first 3D print of Oxygenated Hemoglobin, Wired Magazine found our blog post and wanted to write a short article on it. By the time the article was ready for press, Michael Gulen and I had completed our prototype of Oxygenated Hemoglobin cast in durable colored plastics from silicon molds. Thanks again Rachel Swaby for finding us and writing the article. (more…)

Glycated Hemoglobin, HbA1c, Biologic Models

Glycated Hemoglobin HbA1c

Protein Description

Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) is a derivative compound that results when Hemoglobin (Hb) is exposed to high levels of blood sugar for prolonged periods of time. Sugar is extremely cytotoxic and readily binds to proteins throughout the body. Protein glycation causes structural changes to occur in the protein, preventing it from achieving ideal 3D configurations

Protein Location

Hemoglobin the most abundant protein inside red blood cells. But this isn’t the only place we find Hemoglobin throughout nature. Various forms of Hemoglobin can be found through the body performing alternative functions, like oxygen storage.

Protein Structure

Hemoglobin is a relatively large protein, it’s reported resolution is 2.1 Å. Composed of four protein chains, 2 Alpha chains and 2 Beta chains, each chain has a single ring-like HEME Group (red x 4) with a single iron atom in its core.
3D Animation

This simple animation showcases the process of “glycation,” when sugar molecules like glucose and fructose bind to hemoglobin and modulating its function.

Hemoglobin Anatomy

Structure Residues Atoms
Chain α 141 1069 (x 2)
Chain ß 146 1123 (x 2)
HEME Group 1 43 (x 4)
Oxygen 1 2 (x 4)
Glucose 1 12 (x 16)

Diabetes Education

The “A1c” Blood Test
The Glycated Hemoglobin HbA1C blood test, or more commonly known as the “A1c” blood test, is an important test given to nearly every single person with diabetes on the planet and many of those at risk for developing diabetes. It is the universally preferred method of diagnosing the onset of pre-diabetes and the only blood test that does not need overnight fasting. Achieving improved A1C scores is an important milestone in lifestyle intervention programs focused on reversing pre-diabetes.
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As important as this blood test is, the HbA1C blood test is systemically misunderstood by patients and confused with acute blood sugar readings. The Hemoglobin A1C protein model solves this problem by transforming a misunderstood blood test result into an interactive scientific model that patients of all ages can explore while waiting for physicians to begin an appointment.

Glycated Hemoglobin A1c and Diabetes Youth Camps

Shortly after completing the design and fabrication of the Hemoglobin A1c Teaching Model, we tested the effectiveness of using it to teach children living with type 1 and 2 diabetes about the HbA1c test. The goal of the experiment was to explain to children the importance of checking their blood glucose regularly, explain what the HbA1c blood test analyses, and how prolonged exposure to glucose causes high HbA1c scores. We contacted the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana to see if they’d like to try using our model during their yearly summer camp retreat.
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Four age groups of children were introduced to the model during their discussion about the HbA1c test. The kid’s diabetes educator used the magnetized pieces of glucose (blue) to show how sugar binds to proteins. To represent increased HbA1c scores, the educator would attach more glucose pieces to the model. By demonstrating the action of protein glycation, she was able to relay complex information about the dangers of glucose while also reinforcing positive self-management practices like checking blood sugars regularly. After the class, the children were asked to answer a few questions about the A1c test and the information they learned while playing with the model. The results were more than fantastic. The diabetes educator reported that every single child took away new information about the test and the importance of good blood glucose control.

3D Print Glycated Hemoglobin HbA1c

Purchase a hand-held model of Glycated Hemoglobin HbA1c below
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Hemoglobin, Hb, 1HHO, Biologic Models

Oxygenated Hemoglobin Hb

Protein Description

Hemoglobin; abbreviated Hb or Hgb, is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells of all vertebrates as well as the tissues of some invertebrates. Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the lungs or gills to the rest of the body (i.e. the tissues). There it releases the oxygen to permit aerobic respiration to provide energy to power the functions of the organism in the process called metabolism. A healthy individual has “12 to 16” grams of hemoglobin in every 100 ml of blood.

In 1825 J. F. Engelhard discovered that the ratio of iron to protein is identical in the hemoglobins of several species. This protein model was created from PDB ID: 1HHO

Media Gallery

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Model Description

This is a 3D print of Oxygenated Hemoglobin (Hb), created from PDB ID: 1HHO. The globulin chains (2x A,B) of this model are colored white, HEME groups red, and Oxygen Molecules Blue. This model also visualizes the location of Glu6 residue (medium Grey) of both chain Bs. This amino acid is known to mutate in Sickle Cell Anemia causing hemoglobin molecules to stick together at Phe85 and Leu88 (Light Grey).

Customize 3D Print

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