Final Projects

Catheryn McDowell
Artist: Catheryn McDowell. This piece is for the Crowe lab’s research surrounding B cell repertoires. Through sequencing of three individuals B cell receptor genes, they were able to determine shared lineages. In my piece, I sought to communicate this by visualizing both the B cell’s and the three participants genes. The B cells are color coordinated to show similarities among individuals while the three DNA strands represent the individuals. The colors on the strands match the colors of the B cells to show how there is an observed commonality between all three individuals
Jessica Mo
Artist: Jessica Mo. The Skaar lab found that Factor X, an enzyme involved in coagulation, could be associated with a poorer immune response to infection. A Phenome-Wide Association Study found that patients with a polymorphism in Factor X were more likely to be hospitalized due to issues with hemostasis or infection. Factor X-deficient mice show greater protection from A. baumannii infection compared to non-deficient mice. According to the study, “Factor X deficiency was associated with reduced cytokine and chemokine production and alterations in immune cell population during infection: Factor X deficient mice demonstrated increased abundance of neutrophils, macrophages, and effector T cells.” These findings suggest that Factor X activity is related to a less efficient immune response and A. baumannii infection. This illustration uses a visual metaphor to demonstrate the interplay between Factor X, the immune response, and A. baumannii. The guard dog represents the immune response, as the immune system’s mission is to protect the body from foreign invaders. A. baumannii is represented by the home invader, as it seeks to colonize its host. The guard dog is held back by a leash, representing Factor X, which holds back the immune response. It is immediately evident that the guard dog is not completely incapacitated—just as the presence of Factor X does not completely destroy the immune response. However, the dog’s leash restrains it from attacking the invader to its fullest ability, just as Factor X prevents the immune system from properly defending the body.
Jessica Mo
Artist: Jessica Mo. The Skaar lab at Vanderbilt University investigates novel therapeutic targets for pathogens like Acinetobacter baumannii, an important pathogen that can cause infections and pneumonia in humans. A. baumannii need to obtain zinc in order to effectively colonize hosts. As a defense mechanism, vertebrates sequester zinc from A. baumannii. The Skaar lab discovered that during zinc starvation, A. baumannii’s genes encoding a cell wall-modifying enzyme named ZrlA are upregulated. Bacteria with inactivated ZrlA were more vulnerable to antibiotics due to an altered cell envelope. As a result, ZrlA could be a new therapeutic target for combating A. baumannii. This illustration depicts the dynamic between zinc starvation, ZrlA, and the cell wall with a visual metaphor. The desert represents zinc starvation, while the brick wall represents the cell wall. The construction worker represents ZrlA, due to its cell wall-modifying abilities. The almost protective stance of the construction worker in front of an intact wall despite the aridity of the desert suggests the crucial role of ZrlA in maintaining cell envelope homeostasis in the midst of barrenness caused by zinc starvation. Overall, this piece shows the important role of ZrlA in nutrient metal uptake and cell envelope homeostasis for A. baumannii.
Vikas Dodda
Artist: Vikas Dodda. As Dr. Hasty has seen in obesity, macrophages infiltrate white adipose tissue, producing inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Furthermore, the presence and consequent rapid death of macrophages have been linked with the development of insulin resistance which can yield high blood sugar levels thereby increasing likelihood of heart disease and stroke. This illustration depicts white adipose tissue infiltrated with macrophages. The central macrophage projects into three divisions to represent deterioration of health. The first blood vessel is healthy. The second vessel is filled with a sugar-like hexagon pattern to represent hyperglycemia. The final vessel has a series of pill bottles superimposed onto it to signify the medication one turns to when their health has failed them. The lumen size decreases across the three vessels to signify atherostenosis. The wavy pattern in the background is meant to represent metabolic cycling, a key interest of Dr. Hasty’s, in which weight fluctuations over time provoke exaggerated immune response and ultimately worsened metabolic health.
Jack Walton
Artist: Jack Walton. This image represents how epigenetics can leave some people highly vulnerable to addiction. The dark end of the hallway represents addiction, and the DNA strands are dragging someone back who is trying to escape the pull of addiction. The colored pieces on the DNA strands are the epigenetic markers.
Alexa Marcus
Artist: Alexa Marcus. This painting, titled A Different Kind of Craving, depicts the results from the 2019 Calipari lab’s study “Cues play a critical role in the estrous cycle-dependent enhancement of cocaine reinforcement” by Johnson et al. This study aimed to focus on female addiction, as this topic has not been extensively researched. Subjects included male and female rats, with the female rats being split into two groups, those going through estrus and those going through diestrus. Estrus and diestrus refer to stages in the rats’ version of a menstrual cycle. Estrus refers to the stage that corresponds to ovulation and diestrus to a stage not including ovulation. These rats were placed in a Pavlovian style environment, with cocaine infusions being paired with a light stimulus to induce a desire for cocaine. Once this stimulus-response interaction was achieved, the rats were able to push a lever whenever they craved cocaine. Results showed that the female rats who were classically conditioned during their estrus cycle, compared to both female rats going through diestrus at the time and male rats, were much more likely to push the lever when the light cue was present. Essentially, the rats in estrus had much higher affinities for cocaine when the cue was present, revealing that hormones might have a great effect on addiction. This work highlights the sex-differences in addiction and the role that cues play, which may open a new pathway into further future research surrounding female drug addiction. This study included many other aspects, including a higher relapse rate in female rats going through estrus. These particular aspects of the study emphasize that addiction is a widespread problem and is especially problematic and rooted in colleges. My painting depicts a birth control pack sorting lines of cocaine to represent the influence hormones have on drug addiction. The birth control is used up until the point of ovulation in the cycle to demonstrate that this is the point where cues were shown to have the most impact on addiction in the study. However, the study does not look into or suggest that birth control is linked to higher rates of addiction. Through this painting, I am hoping to spread awareness to this topic and warn the female population that they are at a higher risk for addiction and relapse due to cues.
Ellen Yu
Artist: Ellen Yu. This image highlights the differences in obese and lean adipose tissue metabolic function as well as potential therapeutic targets. In obese adipose tissue, oxidative phosphorylation is less efficient and immune cells cause inflammation in the adipose tissue. Additionally, epigenetic modifications resulting in heterochromatin allow for active modifications at inflammatory loci. The opposite occurs in lean adipose tissue — oxidative phosphorylation is more effective and there is no inflammation. Lean adipose tissue is also more effective at iron handling.
Camryn Divaut
Artist: Camryn Divaut. In 2018, a research study was conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles that used an emerging molecular tracer called FDDNP to identify clumps of the degenerative protein tau in the brains of control, Alzheimer’s, retired football, and military subjects. This groundbreaking tracer was successfully able to locate the abnormal protein indicating the possibility of being able to diagnose patients with Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease caused by repeated head trauma, during their lifetimes. Prior to FDDNP, CTE could only be diagnosed in patients after death when an autopsy could unveil clusters of tau in the brain. Tau in Watercolor features the brain scans of the subjects that participated in the study using a purple to red scale, with purple indicating very little of tau and red indicating a very high concentration of the protein. An analyzation of the scans reveals that the parts of the brain mainly consumed by the protein lie in the brain stem. Extremely high concentrations of tau appear in parts of the brain like the hippocampus and amygdala, which control memory and mood, confirming symptoms like memory loss and mood swings commonly reported by those likely experiencing CTE.
Liyan Shen
Artist: Liyan Shen. The painting is based on Hasty Lab’s 3D image of obesity-induced macrophage infiltration into adipose tissue. The painter gets artistic inspirations from a Japanese painting The Great Wave that resembles the overwhelming accumulation of macrophages. These macrophages are activated pro-inflammatory macrophages that contribute to low-grade inflammation in adipose tissue and a decrease of adiponectin. The infiltration also cause insulin resistance in liver and skeletal muscle.
Kashi Anifowoshe
Artist: Kashi Anifowoshe. Drugs affect the nervous system by either imitating, activating a large release, or preventing the reabsorption of neurotransmitters. The smoke in the painting fumes out and eventually transform into neurotransmitter pathways. It summarizes the amazing ability for drugs to mimic and control our biological processes.
Artist: Elizabeth Dang. The image represents the ongoing threat to freshwater biodiversity-especially amphibians. According to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, about 40% of all amphibian species are threatened by extinction (the proportions are depicted on the pie graph/lily at right). The Global Living Planet Index and Freshwater Living Planet Index (both indicators of biodiversity) are also depicted at left.