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.




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.



Cancer cell

Cancer cell

Despite the nasty consequences of cancer cells, they certainly can be beautiful.

Cancer involves abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is a group of diseases with over 100 different types.

There are about 14 million new cases of cancer per year globally causing about 8 million deaths – 15% of all deaths.

Treatment for many forms of cancer has improved exponentially over the last few decades, decreasing the number of deaths caused by cancer. Because cancer is is a group of diseases it is unlikely there will ever be a single “cure”.


Pain gene

Painting representing the DNA for a gene involved in musculoskeletal pain. The letters are the DNA code for the gene, acid sensing ion channel 3  (ASIC3). The structure in the middle is a DNA helix. From this genetic code cells make a protein to eventually get expressed in pain receptors. My laboratory has spent many years trying to understand how ASIC3 mediates chronic musculoskeletal pain. It is an ion channel found on pain receptors in muscles and joints. When activated, by decreases in pH, it send signals to the central nervous system transmitting the pain signals to the brain. We have shown that this gene mediates pain associated with inflammation, chronic muscle pain, and exercise-induced pain. After injury the pain cells increase their production of this gene resulting in more protein in the pain cells of joints and muscles. Blocking ASIC3 can reduce muscle and joint pain. Our goal is to determine if this is a good potential new target to use to treat chronic and inflammatory pain.

Metallic Neurons

This image represents multiple neurons interacting with other neurons. Neurons making millions of connections with other neurons and there are billions of connections between neurons throughout the brain. This is an abstract painting of neurons. This was my initial experimentation with metallic paints, which I love but they do not photograph as well as I would like.Image result for featured

Size: 8″x10″


This painting was featured on the cover of the Journal of Pain in September 2016.





16″ x 20″


This is a depiction of the rods and cones of the eye; they are specialized neurons found in the retina that are responsible for vision. The human retina contains about 120 million rod cells and 6 million cone cells. Thesphotoreceptor cells convert light to electrical signals to send information to the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex so that we can see. Rods are the most numerous photoreceptor cell, depicted here in black and white, are activated at very low light levels. Cones, depicted in colors, are responsible for color vision. Red cones are the most numerous, followed by green and then blue. Activation of cones requires significantly more light, and thus the reason we do not see color at night is that these photoreceptors are not activated. The signals from the rods and cones is transmitted through bipolar cells, depicted in the bottom of the picture, to the optic nerve. Pigmented epithelial cells, depicted on the top of the image, provide structure and nourishment to the photoreceptors.

Size 16″x20″


This is a collage representing synapses: both post-synaptic and pre-synaptic. I used my old published papers which are sitting in a file cabinet in my office, cut them into shapes and glued them to canvas. If you are a scientist you will notice that I have the traces of action potentials in the terminals, have used cut the vesicles from immunohistochemistry staining, and depict the receptors from text with specific receptor names.

In the old days, before the digital era, when we published our research in a journal we would receive 25 free copies of the paper on nice glossy paper from the publisher. When a scientist wanted a copy, instead of downloading it from the Internet immediately, we would send a postcard to the author and ask for a copy. Then  the author would put the copy in the mail-it could takes weeks to get some papers to read.

This picture won second placed in the cover art contest at the University of Iowa in 2015

Size: 16″x20″

Lost Memories

This acyrlic painting represents Alzheimer’s disease. Diseased neurons intermingle with normal neurons, and are surrounded by plaque.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease in which people lose their memory. The disease usually starts with short term memory loss, and progresses to include other symptoms including disorientation, mood alterations, and behavior issues.

While the cause is not known, we do know there are alterations in brain neurons that can be seen histologically. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a loss of neurons, their processes and synapses primarily in the cerebral cortex, including the frontal and cingluate cortex.  This loss results in gross atrophy of the affected regions, including degeneration in the temporal lobe and parietal lobe, and parts of the frontal cortex and cingulate gyrus. Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are clearly observed by microscopy in brains of those With Alzheimer’s disease. Plaques are deposits of beta-amyloid peptide and cellular material outside and around neurons that are thought to interfere with neuron communication. Neurofibrillary tangles are are an accumulation of the microtubule-associated protein inside the neuron.

The above picture shows the lost memories in different stages with the eyes obscured by “fog”. The dying neurons are depicted as darker and have short processes when compared to the healthy neurons, depicted in lighter purple with long branching processes. Amyloid plaques, depicted in orange, are shown throughout the area intermingling with the neurons.

Size 18″x24″

Oiginal painting for sale

Posters available in multiple sizes

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