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Cells of Life

Original Art by Kathleen Sluka

Pain Invaders

Pain Invaders

This paining depicts the fact that chronic pain is transmitted by overexcitable neurons. The devastating nature of chronic pain is mediated by hyperactive neurons in both the peripheral and central nervous system that can make normal activities painful and result in pain throughout the body. Years of research in both animals and human subjects shows that the body’s response to pain becomes abnormal. Not only are the neuron’s hyperexcitable, our body’s own pain relieving capability is reduced. In fact, I have spent the bulk of my career studying pain mechanisms in muscle and joint conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis. Our research has discovered several potential targets and pathways that may one day lead to better treatment. We are currently expanding our research to examine how fatigue and pain interact. Fatigue is an equally devastating symptom that is extremely common in people with chronic pain and also reduces people’s ability to participate in normal activities. We believe that there are similar mechanisms underlying both pain and fatigue.

Chronic pain affects one third of the US population and costs over 600 billion dollars per year as cited by the Institute of Medicine Report on Pain.  Because of the significant problem, a National  Pain Strategy was released in 2016 by Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health. The strategy calls for improvement in education of all health professionals and the public, research targeting new and improved approaches to treatment, and better access to pain treatments for all Americans. These are big goals and will need significant resources to accomplish. While all of this is a problem in America, it does not stop here, it is a problem worldwide. Only with dedicated researchers and clinicians can we

Do you hear me?

Do you hear me?

The painting shows the stereocilia of hair cells (blue columns) from the inner ear, in fact, I show the stereocilia from outer hair cells. Hair cells are sensory receptors, neurons, that transmit sound waves into a signal that is transmitted to the brain for us to differentiate sound. As depicted, sterocilia are arranged in rows of graded lengths and are embedded in a tectorial membrane without microvilli (purple). Supporting cells have small microvilli (red). Movement of the sterocilia causes ion channels on the hair cell to open, and transmits the sound wave to an electrical signal.

oreille_gene_enCoupe schématique de l'organe de Corti

Above is a schematic drawing of the ear (left).  The outer ear (blue) is separated from the middle ear (orange) by the eardrum that is linked to the inner ear (pink) by 3 very small bones. The spiral cochlea is where the hair cells are located. Within the cochlea is the organ of Corti (above right) which houses the hair cells and the supporting cells this is the functional unit that transmits sound.

If you want more information on hearing I refer you to the following website http://www.cochlea.eu/en/cochlea/organ-of-corti.

 

 

Neurodots

This image was produced on my iPad. Just a series of dots with my very cool drawling pen from WACOM. I can now do colorful doodles. In case you were wondering I did this while listening to very cool talks at Spring Brain, a meeting held in Sedona Arizona.

Shadow Self Portrait

Shadow Self Portrait

24″ x 36″

This shows a variety of immune cells that would be found in inflamed joints like rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that is characterized by joint inflammation and has associated pain and stiffness. It primarily affects the small joints of the hands and feet. While the cause is unknown, there are good treatments that minimize the swelling and accompanying pain. If untreated people get significant joint damage and deformities. Thanks to great science over the last 20 years, this is rarely observed. These immune cells are attracted to the joints and secrete cytokines, substances known to enhance the inflammatory process. Known as an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is the result of an immune system attacking its own tissues.

Connected

Connected

24″ x 36″

This painting is of connective tissue which is found throughout the body surrounding all our tissues. There is loose aeoreolar connective tissue, illustrated in this painting. It consists of collagen – yellow –  and elastin – blue -which are produced by fibroblasts – green.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder 

 

I painted this one for my friend Dania, she had this condition. Frozen shoulder is known as adhesive capsulitis, and is associated with significant amounts of pain and loss of ability to move the shoulder. The cause is rally unknown, but occurs more frequently as we get older (40-70 years old), and women. So it is worse to be an older women when it comes to muscle and joint pain problems. The most effective treatment is a steroid injection into the joint, but people often undergo physical therapy to improve their motion and further reduce the pain.

The painting is the shoulder joint seen through an arthroscope often used for surgical repair of shoulder injuries. It shows the ligaments and capsule surrounding the joint. The injured and painful area is pink/red while the more normal areas are closer to white.

Growing Bone

Growing Bone

 

This painting depicts a growth plate, also known as the epiphyseal plate. This is the area of growing bone in children, particularly in the long bones of the body-legs and arms. Each bone has two growth plates at each end. The top of the painting depicts cartilage cells (blue) that continue to grow and produce new cells. The growth plate is cartilage made up of chondrocytes, which produce the cartilage. Chondrocytes are constantly undergo mitosis, cell division, to lengthen the bone and this is controlled by growth hormone in what is called the Zone of Proliferation (top of the painting). The cells then go through a phase where they continue to enlarge, termed hypertrophy (Zone of Maturation and Hypertrophy) followed by calcification and ossification where the cartilage turns to bone (Zones of Calcification and Ossification). I think these are some of the prettiest cells in the body.

Festive fibroblasts

Festive fibroblasts

I have decided to post the painting of fibroblasts for Christmas. These lovely cells are depicted in the Christmas colors-green and red. These cells are found throughout the body and make all kinds of connective tissue – important tissue that holds the body together. As I am on holiday, I will make this short-Merry Christmas.

Immortality

Immortality

This painting depicts HeLa cells. For those of you who do not know what a HeLa cell is you should read the book the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lachs. The cells were named after her and are an immortal cell line used for decades in research. In fact it is the oldest cell line used in research. The cell line was derived cervical cancer cells from a patient, Henrietta Lachs. Her story is interesting. The cells were taken without her knowledge in the early 50s. At that time permissions from patients in research was not the standard of practice it is today. Informed consent is now required for all clinical research with investigators required to tell you details of the project and potential risks. We have review boards that approve all research prior to the start of any experiment.

Some interesting facts about HeLa cells.

  1. Jonas Salk used HeLa cells were used to test the polio vaccine.
  2. HeLa cells were the first cells cloned-1955
  3. There are more than 75,000 papers published using HeLa cells.
  4. HeLa cells have gone into space.
  5. HeLa cells have been subjected to nuclear testing.

 

 

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