‘A Cell’s Life’: the comic strip demystifying Parkinson’s research
Resources & Tools
Author: Almaz OhenePublished: 22 February 2018
Prep: Cook: Serves:
The science behind stem cell treatment can often be difficult to explain. ERCcOMICS is a web comic series from the European Research Council (ERC), which aims to use comic strip storytelling to demystify research
Is a cure for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s just around the corner? To find out, the European Research Council (ERC) is funding cutting-edge research into stem cell treatments and has commissioned an online comic series which explains the findings.
The web comics series, ‘A Cell’s Life’, follows the fate of Jojo, an epidermal (skin) cell whose dream has always been to become a neuron (brain) cell. Jojo is frustrated by the routine of his skin cell work, until his life changes and he’s drafted in to join the stem cell team. Over the course of the 10-part series, the fate of Jojo’s human ‘host’ – diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the story’s opening – is revealed.
Click the image below to watch the teaser video.
The research explored in the comic is carried out by Dr Malin Parmar, professor of developmental and regenerative neurobiology at Lund University, Sweden. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the premature death of dopamine neurons, and Dr Parmar has been testing new stem cell treatment methods that directly re-programme cells into functioning neurons.
Her work involves reprogramming adult skin cells directly into dopaminergic cells – collections of neurons that contain dopamine – and inserting genes into the brain to repair and substitute damaged cells on the spot.
Episode eight will be released today. To read the comic, which is best viewed on a computer rather than a mobile or tablet, follow this link: ‘A Cell’s Life‘.
Malin Parmar (researcher)
Dr Malin Parmar is a professor at Lund University, Sweden, where she is focusing on bringing new cell-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease to the clinic by replacing lost dopamine neurons with new, healthy cells. Her work in cellular reprogramming opens up the possibilities of personalised treatments of patients with healthy versions of their own cells.
Alessandro Tota (artist)
Alessandro Tota is an illustrator and a cartoonist, who lives and works in Paris. He is one of the founders of the magazine ‘Canicola’. His work has been exhibited in Bologna, Modena, Naples, Milan, Helsinki, Paris, Lucerne, Leipzig and Hamburg.
Fiamma Luzzati (storyboard artist)
Fiamma Luzzati is from Italy and now lives in Paris. She is a specialist in scientific communication comics
For comprehensive information about stem cell treatment please visit the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA) website.
How will ‘Brexit’ affect Parkinson’s research in the UK?
What next for Parkinson’s research funding after the UK leaves the EU?
5 days ago
Sir Billy Connolly: Parkinson’s disease is “like a strange animal”
Scottish comedian, actor and musician Sir Billy Connolly has recently discussed his experience of Parkinson’s disease while promoting his new autobiography, ‘Windswept & Interesting’. In an appearance on UK talk show, ‘The Graham Norton Show’, the comedian explained that he had lost the ability to write. He said: “It breaks my heart as I used to love writing letters to people.” Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, Connolly added that he thinks the condition is “like a strange animal. One that sits beside you and says, ‘How will you get on without this?’ – before it takes away something else.” Despite these adjustments, Connolly told Norton he has “good days and bad days” with the condition. “It’s creeping up on me and it never lets go,” he said. “I walk like a drunk man and have to have help. So, life is different, but it is good.” Lead image credit:…
New insights on immune cell process and Parkinson’s disease
Insoluble clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein, which can cause damage to brain cells, have been previously linked to Parkinson’s. Now, scientists in Germany, France and the US have uncovered new details on how brain cells respond to these clusters. The researchers discovered that the brain’s immune cells may be able to join together to break down the protein clumps. According to a press release, this was previously unknown. They also found that these neighbouring cells share mitochondria – structures that generate energy for chemical reactions – to help one another. In certain mutations associated with Parkinson’s, this process may be impaired. The researchers hope this insight could inform the development of new therapies. “We have opened the door to a field that will certainly engage researchers for many years to come,” said Professor Dr Michael Heneka, director of the Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Geriatric Psychiatry at the University Hospital…
Could analysing skin oil help diagnose Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease patients tend to have high levels of oil, known as sebum, on their skin’s surface. Now, a study has suggested that analysing this substance may help when diagnosing the condition. The study revealed that sebum contains significant amounts of genetic material, specifically the molecule ribonucleic acid (RNA). Analysis of RNA contained in sebum – that is, skin surface lipids RNA, or SSL-RNA – could offer insights into a person’s health. Researchers in Japan examined SSL-RNA in men and women with and without Parkinson’s. The results suggested that the SSL-RNA profiles of those with Parkinson’s had “different characteristics” than those without. The researchers then tested whether examining these profiles with machine learning could reveal those who had Parkinson’s – and who didn’t. The team’s algorithm indicated a “relatively robust discriminatory ability,” supporting the further use of SSL-RNA as part of a future “non-invasive” method for diagnosis.