Natural Killer Cells

Natural Killer Cells

This illustration was created for a feature article in the October 2011 issue of the Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Magazine article by Steve Kohler.

“Professor Wayne Yokoyama, MD, long intrigued by the function of natural killer (NK) cells, has shown that NK cells, using a “licensing strategy,” are vitally important elements of the immune system. In 2010, on the occasion of accepting the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for his pioneering arthritis research, Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, told his audience that real advances in science do not come from the close application of previously known arcane facts to solve difficult problems. Rather, he said, science requires taking risks to venture completely beyond what is known, pursuing nature’s secrets that she is not inclined to reveal easily. “There is art to science,” according to Yokoyama, who holds the Sam J. and Audrey Loew Levin Chair for Research in Arthritis.

A major leap in thinking then was required to realize that NK cells bind to MHC-1 just as T-cells do, but work in the opposite fashion. “When an NK cell sees an MHC-1 molecule, it doesn’t note that there is a foreign peptide being displayed. Instead, its job is to patrol for self, and when it binds to MHC-1, the NK cell is shut off,” Yokoyama explains. “Only when the self signal is insufficient is the NK cell released from its ‘off’ condition and freed to do its work.” That’s vitally important information, because viruses have evolved to depress MHC-1 in their attempt to evade T-cells. So NK cells serve an important role as a fail-safe in the immune system, effective when another of the body’s defenses has been blinded by tricky infections.

When an NK cell sees an MHC-1 molecule, it doesn’t note that there is a foreign peptide being displayed. Instead, its job is to patrol for self, and when it binds to MHC-1, the NK cell is shut off. Only when the self signal is insufficient is the NK cell released from its ‘off’ condition and freed to do its work,” Yokoyama explains. “That’s not the whole story, however, because NK cells also need to be activated.” (Illustration by Jennifer E. Fairman, CMI, FAMI)

Read the October 2011 Washington University in St. Louis Magazine article here: Rheumatologist Cracks Molecular Mystery.

Killer in the Blood

Killer in the Blood

This 3-page opening spread illustrates the malaria life cycle caused by Plasmodium falciparum. It is designed to engage the readership and serve as the Table of Contents for Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine’s Malaria Special Issue. Each panel introduces featured content: Panel 1 illustrates pathogenesis within an Anopheles mosquito; Panel 2 depicts the cycle within the human body; Panel 3 highlights Africa, particularly Zambia, a population deeply affected by malaria. Pregnant women and young children are at highest risk of succumbing to this disease. A blood vessel emphasizes flow and progression, guiding the viewer through each stage of the life
cycle, ultimately metamorphosing into the mosquito’s watery breeding environment. An overleaf (see inset*) verbally introduces the spread.

The Genetic Journey

The Genetic Journey

This informational graphic visually summarizes the diverse topics of genetic science that researchers are investigating —such as DNA markers, cellular pathways, chromosomes, mosquito genomes, biostatistics and ethics—to find new ways to improve global health.  Through a visually stimulating portrayal of a wide variety of current genetic research areas, this spread exhibits significant scientific investigations impact on human medicine span from the microscopic to the macroscopic. The spread conveys the 12 specific genetic research areas described and summarized in captions and expressed in the panoramic display, enabling new scientific insight.  The use of graphic symbols at the beginning of each description helps the viewer to identify each of these scientific investigation allows the viewer to understand the progression,  giving the sense of a visual journey in the main panorma.  These topics and their depiction enable the public as well as the community of science to clearly understand the sequencing that has occurred in recent scientific investigations as well as identify the effects that a single gene may have on human health as well as all society. The panoramic display and the use of the DNA molecule allows one to continuously move through the scientific discoveries of the genome from the microscopic, having implications at the molecular level, to macroscopic, having implications on populations. DNA acts as an undulating pathway of adventure which allows the viewer to visually travel from topic to topic. Areas of more intense color focus the viewer at each topic along the DNA trail.

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