‘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.
Fox Foundation offers $2m for ‘game-changing’ Parkinson’s breakthrough
Calling all researchers! $2m prize to develop imaging ‘tracer’ for key
1 day ago
Study suggests why neurons die in Parkinson’s disease
Researchers at the University of Córdoba, Spain, have discovered how a certain protein may be linked to death of dopamine-producing neurons associated with Parkinson’s. Using animal models of the condition to conduct their study, the team focused on the protein DJ-1 – whose link to Parkinson’s has previously been established, though its exact function was uncertain. The researchers compared neurons in the brains of mice that possessed the gene expressing DJ-1 with those that did not. The findings revealed that dysfunction or absence of the gene expressing the DJ-1 protein could trigger the ‘cell cycle’ (the process by which cells divide), which should not occur under normal conditions. Because neurons lack the capacity to divide, this causes them die – leading to the onset of symptoms linked with Parkinson’s. It is hoped that uncovering these details about the relationship between DJ-1’s absence and Parkinson’s may lead to the development of…
Researchers have finally identified brain cells linked to Parkinson’s disease
For decades, scientists have known that Parkinson’s is associated with the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Now, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, US, have discovered the specific subtype of brain cells that die in Parkinson’s disease. Using a technique called single-cell RNA signalling, which enables the individual analysis of cells within a tissue for activity and protein production, researchers identified 10 subtypes of dopamine-producing cells within the donated brains of people who died from causes unrelated to Parkinson’s. The team carried out the same investigation on people who had died with Parkinson’s or a condition with similar symptoms called Lewy body dementia. They discovered that only one subtype of the cells had reduced in number – which suggests many of these cells had died while the people were living. It is hoped that the findings could lead to better understanding of Parkinson’s causes and…
Tiny DBS implant shows potential to advance Parkinson’s disease treatment
In an innovative trial by North Bristol NHS Trust, UK, surgeons have succeeded in implanting a tiny deep brain stimulation (DBS) device into a person’s skull. Their aim? To address symptoms of Parkinson’s. Designed with a tiny battery system that is inserted into the skull, the DBS device delivers electric impulses to targeted areas of the brain through electric probes. In doing so, it works to address abnormal brain cell activity associated with Parkinson’s – and may help to ease symptoms. One of around 25 patients selected for the year-long trial has described the device’s impact as “amazing”. Commenting on the results of the trial so far, consultant neurologist Dr Alan Whone of North Bristol NHS Trust said: “We are hopeful that if these findings hold up, we will have a significant technical advance by which to improve Parkinson’s care across the world.”