Engineering 101

Network Visualization Method Provides Perspective and View Shifts

The research group of Jörg Menche, Adjunct Principal Investigator at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Professor at the University of Vienna, and Group leader at Max Perutz Labs developed a way to generate network layouts enabling visualization of different information of a network in 2-D and 3-D virtual space.

Network visualizations allow the exploration of connections between individual data points. The researchers developed a method that makes it possible to specify in advance which network properties and information should be visually represented to explore them interactively. They have published the results in Nature Computational Science.

For the study, first author Christiane V. R. Hütter used the latest dimensionality reduction techniques that allow visualizations for networks with thousands of points to be computed within a very short time on a standard laptop. Menche Lab scientists developed four different network layouts, or cartographs, and 2-D and 3-D visualizations, each following different rules to open up new perspectives on a given dataset.

They performed a proof-of-concept on both simple model networks and the complex interactome network, which maps all the proteins of the human body and their interactions. They found that they could visually represent different features of proteins and their connections, such as the close relationship between the biological importance of a protein and its centrality within the network. The flexibility of the new framework allows users to tailor network visualizations for a specific application.

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