Amsterdam UMC

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Cracking the code

Glycotreat is an EU-funded research project about glycans and their role in battling cancer. Glycans play a central role throughout our bodies: every cell is covered with a coat of glycan structures. Each glycan structure has a code, and the Glycotreat project is an attempt to crack that code and use it to fight cancerous tumours in the body.

This image shows a full bodypainted model surrounded by sparkles

The concept of camouflage

The film starts with gorgeous images, with crispy, fluorescent colours popping from the screen. We can vaguely recognise a shape within the image, but it’s hard to tell because of its camouflage. Then the hidden shape is uncovered – the tumour has been exposed. We decided to show this spectacle through the use of body-painted models, who symbolise the processes that take place within the body.

This image shows a 3D animation of the lymph node with blue T cells

A journey through the body

This is followed by a journey through the human body, along the same route that the inserted tumor and glycan travel. The journey starts with the vaccination process itself. We then see how the injected cells interact with the dendritic cells. We follow them to the lymph node where many T-cells and antibodies try to match with the injected tumor and glycan. This journey visualises best how a vaccine could actually fight cancerous tumors. 

This image shows two laurels of Cannes and Raw Science Film Festival on the backdrop of a bodypainted model

Award-winning film

The film won a Global Short Film Award at the biggest short film festival in the world! And the film was also screened during the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, where we received the trophy. Almost a year later, the film received another award – this time for ‘Best Dramatic Short Film’ at the Raw Science Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Yvette van Kooyk

Professor Yvette van Kooyk is a director of the Amsterdam Infection & Immunity Institute, and the coordinator of the Glycotreat project. In 2019, she was awarded the Spinoza Prize for her research in the field of immunology. We got the chance to interview her about her work, her passions, and her plans for the future.

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