Cancer or Canvas?

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 (! 

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


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93 Responses to Cancer or Canvas?

  1. Dr. Cassone says:

    What a cool comparison!

  2. Thank You for your Vision Rajini Rao​

  3. Rajini Rso…. Very interesting. There is art, even in death ( cancer ). Thanks. Good Evening.

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    Or, you can recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night using 3,500 Post-Its 🙂

    Thanks for share Jose M. G. Guerreiro .

  5. Rajini Rao​ Awesome!

  6. You split me right down the middle with this post, Rajini. Couldn’t resist a fiber artist profiling herself as “loose ends”. Then you hit me with hedgehog signalling accompanied by Buddhini’s excellent post.

  7. Cancer on canvas. 🙂

  8. Cynthia Bush says:

    Unique! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🔖

  9. Rajini Rao says:

    You wouldn’t be embroidering on the facts with that punny observation, Thex Dar ! 

  10. Regina Seyo says:

    Thats very nice..

  11. I prefer to see a rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night, Rajini Rao!  But I get your point, and it’s extraordinary. There is “art” under a microscope for sure!

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    Giselle Minoli art without the sadness of disease is infinitely better, of course! 

  13. So true, of course. But I wonder if you saw that NY Times article recently about women who had decided to bare it all, as survivors of breast cancer – and to find beauty and acceptance in their bodies? I’ll see if I can find it for you. It was inspiring. I’m curious about the relationship between healing and finding something within the disease to make contact with…you know what I mean? I posted in my collections something on Alzheimer’s and an artist, like this post here, who had found “art” within the plaques. There is something in this that appears to “speak” to people in some way Rajini Rao.

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    Giselle Minoli I know how personal Alzheimer’s is to you. I checked your collection for a link to the art in amyloid plaques but did not find it. If you have time, do point me in that direction. You may be interested in my recent post on a drug from daffodils, galantamine, that slows cognitive decline in dementia (  Back to breast cancer- yes, I did see the story on survivors and their scars! How brave and wise of them to take it in their stride. 

  15. Hi, Rajini Rao I’ve been searching for the “artistic” reference that I was so interested in re: the art interpretation of things biological and it took me a while to find it for you. It is the work of Greg Dunn and I think it is really beautiful:

    Here is his Bio on his about page and you will see why I free-associated to it when I read your post (at least I think you will):

    “I enjoy Asian art. I particularly love minimalist scroll and screen painting from the Edo period in Japan. I am also a fan of neuroscience. Therefore, it was a fine day when two of my passions came together upon the realization that the elegant forms of neurons (the cells that comprise your brain) can be painted expressively in the Asian sumi-e style. Neurons may be tiny in scale, but they posess the same beauty seen in traditional forms of the medium (trees, flowers, and animals).

    I admire the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean masters because of their confidence in simplicity. I try to emulate this idea.

    In October 2011 I finished my doctorate in Neuroscience at University of Pennsylvania. Since then I have been devoting my time to painting. When I’m not doing this I’m enjoying reading scientific papers, playing music and watching “How Its Made”.

  16. Re: my own Alzheimer’s post, I meant to say that I had used a photo of his to create the backdrop photo for my own G+ Collection of Alzheimer’s posts, which I can now tell you about! It is here:

    Alzheimer’s, The Long Goodbye:

    Yes, it is a subject matter about which I care very much. Thank you very much for pointing me to your great link on Daffodil Juice! I loved that. But it is absolutely stupefying that there is a lack of funding giving our aging population…but I will comment on that post itself!

    P.S. Cheryl Machat Dorskind’s daughter was just accepted into the Masters/Ph.D. program at John’s Hopkins. She wants to be a scientist and help cure diseases!

  17. Rajini Rao says:

    Oh, thanks for finding the reference, Giselle Minoli ! I do know of Greg Dunn’s work (I did a post on his art sometime back). There are two of his paintings hanging at the Brain Science Institute at Hopkins. One of them is on a wall opposite an elevator and it’s the only time I’d rather the door closed later than sooner. It’s the first painting in your link (Cortical Flare, I believe). The other one is called Glial Flare.  

  18. See you beat me to everything Rajini Rao! Of course you did a post on Greg Dunn. Although I missed that too. Sigh. But I missed a lot of things in the last 10 months (because of a nasty accident you probably don’t know about…). But I am now, once again and happily in touch. Although the possibility of catching up is impossible. Cheers to you!

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    Giselle Minoli so glad that you are well. Do take care! 

  20. wow! that is amazing and frightening! to think that cancer, so deadly, and life changing, is so pretty!

    it reminds me tbat evil can be beautiful and decieving as it aneaks up

  21. Maggie Razzi says:

    It makes me wonder what Van Gogh used as muse??

  22. Very cool. I like this idea and would like to see more artist interpretations of histological preparations like this.

  23. Rajini Rao says:

    Chandler Walker check out the website of the journal Cell. They have a section called the Cell Picture Show and many more examples of artistic interpretations of images.

  24. Rajini Rao Thanks! Very cool. I am surprised I have not stumbled upon this before.

  25. วันชัยวันชัย

  26. Thanks a the information

  27. Cancer is not art people in my family died from cancer

  28. Some of my family on both sides have died of cancer. So what are my chances? But I don’t let it scar me or make me hate this bit of info, even in the art form.

  29. Haseeb Jutt says:

    How can one see that!

  30. Aapki science mujko bahut aachi lagi thanku

  31. Dear Friends, Please see my pictures.

    Regards : Pawan Raghuvanshi

  32. One word………………..WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Ari de Lima says:

    A vida imita a arte,sempre li assim…mas imitar a morte é uma grande NOVIDADE…

  34. growth of cancer cells can be awry and no two can the same making it predictable in a particular path in a prticular ltime

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  36. Love it look so beautiful

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