Cancer or Canvas?
★ Do you see cancer cells run amok or a beautiful rendition of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”? In this addition to my Art or Science? collection, it’s hard to pick out the microscope image from the artwork it inspired. The tiny biological details revealed by researchers at the University of Michigan Center for Organogenesis are captured in larger than life quilts by Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends who raise public awareness about the importance of the arts in healthcare settings.
★ On the Left is a cross-section of mouse skin with basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of human skin cancer. The top layer of skin is stained red, collagen fibers are stained blue and the deadly tumor cells appear in the red at the bottom. On the Right, artist Carole Nicholas renders the image with fabric and stitching to simulate the Van Gogh’s brushwork in a quilt.
★ This type of common skin cancer arises exclusively from the base of the hair follicle, where a niche of stem cells reside. When the hair follicle is in its growth phase, these cells are temporarily activated by the hedgehog signaling pathway. In cancer, this pathway is permanently on overdrive, due to mutations in genes known as Patched (PTCH) or Smoothened (SMO). If you’re curious about the origin of these amusing gene names, especially Sonic Hedgehog, Indian Hedgehog and Tiggywinkle Hedgehog, check out Buddhini Samarasinghe’s entertaining and informative post (http://goo.gl/bhlKie)!
REF: Hutchin et al. Sustained Hedgehog signaling is required for basal cell carcinoma proliferation and survival: conditional skin tumorigenesis recapitulates the hair growth cycle.
Image Credits: Mark Hutchin, University of Michigan
Art Quilt by Carole Nicholas, Fiber Artists@Loose Ends