spike protein / chief rank

While I want only to draw and paint, I will share a few things (that I sort of understand) about the spike protein.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is martinez_spikeprotein1.jpg

The most obvious identifying feature, and for me it’s the pull to draw the coronavirus again (and again), is the spike protein (S protein). By now everyone is familiar with this proteinscape (yes, I made the word up) along the outer edge of the virus which forms the identifying crown that it is named after.

Visually, I appreciate layout, structure and textural qualities.

I purchase new materials and enjoy the freedom archival marking pens bring me (I do not let go of paint and brush). The pens allow for a tighter and narrower clean line that holds its fluidity.

I look up the word protein to find it comes from the Greek proteios defined as chief rank or first place. Interesting, though I can’t say this helps me get any clearer on S proteins. (…or perhaps it does…)

There are many proteins involved in the coronavirus assembly, including M protein (membrane protein) and E protein (envelope protein).

I understand S proteins are glycoproteins meaning they contain a carbohydrate (a slippery sugar molecule) which helps disguise the virus so as not to be detected by host cells.
#penetrating #fusing

Without the S protein, viruses like the (novel) SARS-CoV-2 would not be able to interact with the cells of its potential host and cause infection. It also neutralizes antibodies after infection. Consequently, the S protein was/is ideal target for vaccine and antiviral research.
→ #ChiefRank

Are some proteins programmed to be so sneaky? #SurvivalOfTheMostAdaptable

This subject is more complicated than I can say…so it’s wise for me to return to the studio. I’m keeping this simple. (Cuz I don’t know a virologists and if I did I wouldn’t interrupt them right now cuz they’re probably very busy.)

Spike protein, I wish I’d never heard of you. Go away.


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

matter and memory

“He who installs himself in becoming sees in duration the very life of things, the fundamental reality.”


I begin this study of my father in 2015. The work first exhibits in 2017, at the University of Arizona, School of Medicine, in downtown Phoenix. And it shows again in the summer of 2018, for an art exhibition/summer artist residency, at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

This week I find myself adding 3 new details to the composition. Next time it shows, it will be a little different. #NothingInStasis

When I start this work, dad is experiencing changes in his health. He takes a fall and because he describes how he tucks and rolls, I don’t worry too much. (Apparently he learned to tuck and roll while playing high-school football. I had no idea dad played football!)

Another fall causes my father to stop his daily swimming practice. Something feels different after this one. (In my childhood, dad was a summer lifeguard. He enjoyed swimming for as long as I can remember. My siblings and I still share memories of our summers at the pool.) Dad never returns to swimming.

Today, I better understand how changes in one’s health can signal changes in one’s brain. As covered in previous posts, dad is eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Detail of some organs of balance in the composition.

Considering my father didn’t care to be photographed, he was open and easy with all the prep work necessary for this artwork. Frankly, he was much more comfortable than I, with the whole process. I remember him smiling for all the shots. If you knew my dad, he didn’t usually smile for photographs (he made faces). I sensed his respect for my work and I suspect he enjoyed being a part of it.

I add a coronavirus to the composition. Dad tested positive though remained asymptomatic until he tested negative.

So…
Dad left the planet last August. The medical examiner determined cause of death as Alzheimer’s Disease. And while there is truth to this, I think the death certificate should also note some complications ↑ due to Covid-19.

This week I found a book my father gifted me, titled Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson.  Dad, always the avid reader, was a thinker and true educator. He particularly enjoyed talking philosophy. (It’s a complicated read. I have yet to finish it.)

Looking back, I recall the look on dad’s face when he saw the title of my first solo exhibit, in 1998, was élan vital (a phrase coined by Bergson in 1907). He was pleasantly surprised and though I should not have been, I was surprised he knew Bergson’s writing (Of course he did!). We enjoyed conversation that weekend of the opening, breaking down impulse, current, vital force, vital impetus…etc.

One of my last memories includes time with my father last Christmas (pre-pandemic). I bought him a small puzzle of the United States (For a short time in his life, he taught history).

Dad, where is Texas?
He points, Right here.
Put it in its place.
What’s to the west of Texas?
New Mexico! You lived there!
Yes, I did! Where’s New Mexico? He picks up the piece.
Where does it go? He points.
Fit it in dad. 

We move through the puzzle, one state at a time, both of us enjoying the process. When we are done, he’s happy and tired.

And 2 more additions to the study:
During my summer residency (back in 2018), I learn mitochondrial dysfunction appears to be a trigger for AD. I consider adding one. Yesterday, I paint this powerhouse of the cell into the composition.

These days, I’m learning about neurotransmitters. I learn about acetylcholine and cholinergic neurons ↓ and their connection to AD and add what I believe will be the final detail.

…My father left the planet in early August, ten days before my birthday. He lived a full and happy life. He was curious, thoughtful.

Dad, you are one cool guy! #UrBeautifulBrain

Still and curious. Continuing to learn.

#ProcessPhilosophy #NothingInStasis
#Motion #Change #Evolution
#VitalForce #CreativePrinciple


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

medulla oblongata / subtle and physical

The first time I hear anyone say the words medulla oblongata, it’s Lester describing the place where spirit enters the body. Now, all these many years later, I know where the energy center is located.

The medulla oblongata sits at the back of the neck, where the skull meets the spine. I could not have imagined, back in the day, I’d draw and detail such an anatomical study. Here is a cross section of the space / the place where your spirit enters your body.

Recently I hear it called the Mouth of God. #LifeForce #Prana

cross section of medulla oblongata

Subtle
Base of brain
Seat of life
Where soul enters body
Medulla, the marrow
core of all cores
center of all centers
Aum

Cross section of Medulla Oblongata,  Mixed media on paper.

Physical
Medulla, Latin for the marrow
medius,
middle
central substance, core
Oblongata defined as rather long
long stem structure
at the lower part of the brainstem.
Your breath, Your heart, and Your sleeping and waking.

One more note.
The next time you vomit or sneeze, know your medulla oblongata is involved too.


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

trichuris trichiura

Trichuris comes from the Greek tricho, meaning hair and oura, meaning tail. Trichuris trichiura (T. trichiura)common name, whipworm. I gather the name refers to the shape of its hair-like anterior.

My quick note:
Trichuris trichiura (T. trichiura), aka, whipworm.
Trichuriasis, aka, whipworm infection aka a neglected tropical disease.

I particularly enjoy drawing the linear, yet sinuous T. trichiura. ↓

The whipworm has a thicker rear end (posterior) and thinner front end (anterior).  Female is larger (35-50mm) than  male (30-45mm).

I’ve introduced you to Dr. María Adelaida Duque, who enjoys her work with the biological pathogen. The focus of my current research is on understanding the interactions between the parasitic nematode Trichuris trichiura and the intestinal epithelia, their host cells. T. trichiura is an animal from the phylum nematoda. Maria reminds me, we can get infected with this parasite when we ingest eggs present in contaminated food or water.

My rendition of whipworms in the intestine.

Two questions direct Maria’s current work:
How does the larvae reach the bottom of the crypt and invade the epithelia?
What are the interactions between larvae and cells promoting this process?

When the larva is liberated, it infects the bottom of the crypts of the intestinal epithelia and creates tunnels inside them: it is a multi-intracellular parasite! One L1 larva (100um) infects about 40-50 cells in one tunnel.

In the tunnels, the larva moults 4 times, growing and shedding their cuticle with each moult, until they become adult worms, either female and male (about 3-5cm), which mate and produce eggs that are liberated in the faeces, thus completing the life cycle.

Unembryonated whipworm eggs

cross section- cecum inflamed with worms

Eggs hatch in the cecum/proximal colon and larvae immediately infect the cells of the epithelium in there.

My questions:
Do they move through any other organs in the body before heading back to the lumen?
How do they make there way and know where to land? What directs them? Is it chemistry? temperature? (I think this might be Maria’s question too.)

Cross section of cecum based on Maria’s photo. I wished I’d worked larger.

About the art: I especially like the active mark-making this cross section ↑ of the cecum allows.

You are looking at contents in the area where the large intestine begin. The center space is called the lumen (Latin for light). It appears like empty space but it is not. Use your imagination…the lumen holds/transports all sort of interesting things. (Is this chyme?)

Close up.Can you see both whipworms and eggs (in the light)?

My notes and stuff that goes on in my head as I paint:
Intra-multicellular parasite (influences black background and palette), you live and reproduce in/and/or outside of host cells. You produce and liberate 5000 eggs per day (yikes!) into the lumen of your host’s gut which eventually exit and drop into a new environment (soil). With support of warmth, moisture and week’s time, your eggs embryonate.
Ingestion of your now developing eggs leads to infection/s as they enter a new gut where a new generation of you burrow in fresh gut lining, molt x4, mature and if allowed, repeat the cycle of the parasites that came before them and you.
(I know this is a long run-on sentenced paragraph. Like I said… it’s the way my brain works when I paint.)

Soil-transmitted helminths (T. trichiura)
uninvited guest
you cause disease (Trichuriasis).

Is there is treatment for this worm infection? Yes, Maria says, but it is not efficient and often we cannot eradicate the infection. That is why we need new drugs and to find a vaccine.

Continued success in your research and public engagement work  → Dr. María Adelaida Duque.


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

an anopheles mosquito and the unicellular organism it transfers

Alejandro Marin Mendez is enthusiastic as he introduces himself to me and tells me about his work as a scientist.

Thinking he lives in Spain, he corrects me and explains he was born in Spain and currently lives in France. He mentions other places he’s lived as well as languages he’s learned. This is the life of a scientist, he happily notes.

We discuss Covid-19 restrictions and then go to the topic of Malaria.

He begins, I focus my research on the malaria parasite, which is called Plasmodium and it is unicellular.

There are 5 species of Plasmodium that affect humans: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi. It’s a vector-borne disease which means that it’s transmitted by mosquitoes (of the genus Anopheles).

According to the World Health Organization there are over 220 million cases of malaria infections reported in the world (mainly in the Southern hemisphere) and causes a 400,000 death toll per year, most of them being children under 5 years old infected with P. falciparum. Basically, it’s a massive health burden across the globe, especially affecting children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The parasite needs to invade the RBC’s (red blood cells) as part of its life cycle. In the process of invading and egressing in and out of RBCs in a cycle that lasts between 24 and 72 hours, depending on the species, is when affected people develop all the symptoms (fever, anemia, headaches, muscular pain and in severe cases cerebral comma and death). Within the human body it mostly reproduces asexually, while later in the cycle it produces gametocytes that will commence sexual reproduction (2 cells give 1 cell) within the mosquito. I find that bit fascinating, that an unicellular organism has asexual and sexual reproduction across it’s life cycle!

My brain finds it hard to keep up….unicellular, P. falciparum, vector borne, RBC cycles…
I quick-note (aka doodle quickly) with stuff laying on my desk.

female Anopheles mosquito

My take:
An infected (and pregnant) Anopheles mosquito (vector) bites (sucks nutritious blood for maturation of its eggs) a human (host), injecting the malaria parasite (via its saliva glands) into the bloodstream (in the elongated form of a sporozoite).

The sporozoite (infective agent) enters the liver (hiding from the immune system) and multiplies (asexually) within liver cells (polyhedral hepatocytes). Liver cells eventually burst, sending what are now merozoites (who escape) out into the blood stream.

Did I get this right? Correct me if I didn’t.
Some merozoites (rounder form of the parasite) enter (bind to the surface) erythrocyte (aka, blood cell), where cycle continues in further complex stages: Ring stage, Trophozoite stage, Schizont stage (mature sporozoites)…while other merozoites develop into gametocytes.

Whew…there’s more but I’ll leave it for another day…

work in progress

Early in the zoom call, Alejandro referred to the parasite as a serial killer.

The last thing I ask: Do/does the parasite, in its various stages, communicate with each other?  I paraphrase here ↓ (cuz I found it complicated).
He explains, the parasite is basically a single-celled organism. (This doesn’t answer my question.) He says, we can talk philosophically or perhaps spiritually, and perhaps we might consider it communicates. Perhaps. And then he goes into the molecular and hypotheses…

…serial killer…silently creeping…plasmodium falciparum…

mosquito goes dark. work in progress.

Muchas Gracias Alejandro. Me gustó hablar contigo!
_________________

Alejandro Marin Mendez is a scientist and an avid bicyclist. He’s combined the two things he loves into a Public Engagement initiative where he brings cutting edge science to Secondary Schools and the general public, around the world.
For more  →
scicling.org.

#circles #cycles


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

the appendix

Looking up the word appendix in my copy of a “Medical Meanings” glossary (thank you Wright), I am directed to see vermis. (Vermis?) Vermis is the Latin word for worm. (Of course it is!) It continues….Veriform appendix, Latin for addition or supplement, which is stuck on the base of the cecum for no apparent purpose in man but to serve as a seat for appendicitis. (hmmm). Out of familiarity, we seldom use the full name of this little organ; we call it simply the appendix.
And a note… A vermifuge (Latin fugare, to chase away) is an agent that expels worms or similar vermin from the gut.


My previous post, on the ileum, receives a comment from pediatrician, Dr. Betsy Triggs. She writes, Oooh! Please do the nasty little innocent looking troublemaker appendix next. Ileum’s neighbor. 😊

I’m going to stop saying I especially love some particular part of the body (like the appendix), cause it’s getting old. Truth is, I love learning about the whole incredibly complex and connected organism.

And another note: I appreciate my glossary definition of the word autopsy
Autopsy is a misapplied term when used to refer to postmortem examination. The Greek autopsia (auto-, “self,” + opsis, “seeing”) meant, in fact, “seeing oneself.” According to Professor Alexander Code (JAMA. 1965;191:121), for the Greeks this had an even more mystical meaning in the sense of “a contemplative state preceding the vision of God.”

The appendix (study) world as seen under magnification.


I paint a cross section of the appendix and ask Dr. Triggs, for her thoughts on the organ.

She writes, The appendix is now thought to be the repository for the “good gut bacteria” that doesn’t get pooped out when you have diarrhea. Maybe because it’s a tiny little wormy thing with a small Lumen, offset on the cecum (which in itself is a blind pouch off the large intestine) gut bacteria can survive there even when we take antibiotics. It’s such a cool little finger/wormy thing that can flip and be in different positions so making the diagnosis of appendicitis tricky.

Detail

As I read Betsy’s (great visual) description, I note the appendix a dead-end of sorts, or maybe more like a cul-de-sac. Either way, I imagined it to be a hot-spot where bad bacteria collected. I recall reading different areas of the intestine holding different bacteria due to temperature…or something like that. What is the temperature of the appendix (temperature in the appendix)?

Anyway…I want to keep this post short and sweet…perhaps like the appendix.


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

ahh…life

Ahh, mother. Ahh, infant. Ahh, life.

Last Fall, while working to understand the microbiome and its relationship to obesity, I knew it was in the cards that I’d focus on a neonatal study and breastfeeding (among other things).

I listen to podcasts as I paint. My drawing paper is a good place to note key points. #TheBodyIsPolitcal

I’ve learned to consider mother’s milk as food, medicine and signal (thanks to Katie Hinde and → Mammals Suck…Milk!).  This is complicated stuff (I say this a lot lately). I’m sharing general notes to explain my direction and include a few links for the science.

So much happens behind the scenes, when mother feeds child. It seems somewhat multi-leveled and maybe multi-dimensional (I don’t mean the latter to read esoteric but admit I like implication). I know breastfeeding shapes babies immune system. I learn it shapes the brain, influences emotion and behavior, and more clearly I understand breast milk feeds (gut) microbes.

My representation of the structure of a lactating breast includes secretory lobules, alveoli, ducts, fat and connective tissue ↑. I circle and magnify area to emphasize the focus. Isolating and highlighting ↓ epithelial layer (I like these cells!), I note milk lipid droplets and casein (And I wonder if the same animal protein when added to pigment becomes my Casein paint!)

I read oxytocin makes muscle cells contract and prolactin support the milk secreting cells.

Stem Cells

I learn human breast milk contains (non-invasive) pluripotent ↑ stem cells → mammalssuckmilk. .

While initially I plan to only draw the intestine, I recall babies have a large (way large!) #ThymusGland. It enters composition as do heart and lungs. And I always include the mighty #Liver.

Mother’s breast milk is living. It is both nourishment (calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, potassium…etc) and hydration. And if I understand correctly…each and every time (wow) mother feeds baby, her milk satisfies the child’s needs at that particular moment in time.

Baby’s spit/saliva carries a signal as it washes ↑ back up into mother’s breast where receptors pick it up. Communication via fluids…you can imagine the benefit to a building immune system ↓. (Breast milk mixed with baby saliva generates hydrogen peroxide → H2O2  )

I don’t forget (I wrote about them before) the human milk oligosaccharides ↑ (HMO’s), the complex carbohydrates unique to human milk that baby cannot absorb. Reminder: HMO’s act as fertilizer for populating gut microbes. (fucosyllactose component of oligosaccharide feed bifidobacteria)
#IntestinalFlora #GutEcosystem #Microbiome #ImUnderstandingSymbiosis!

I go back to my desktop notes to make sure I’ve included particulars in the post. While there’s more to the artwork, I repeat and emphasize…the relationship between newborn and mother is multi-dimensional.
#ILoveMitochondria

A woman’s body. Will continue. Holding the life.

While painting this study, I read and listen to Katie Hinde, whose work was introduced to me by Dr Joe Alcock.
→ TEDWomen What we don’t know about mother’s milk
→ Blog  Mammals Suck… Milk!


This post is dedicated to my sister who lives in Connecticut. Analissa had her first baby   just as the country went into physical-distancing. I hope to meet my ↓ nephew before too long. In the meantime, I text her when I learn a fun fact.

Nephew Roberto AKA Tito

And to my neighbor Amy, mom to 4 week old Hailey (this Portrait of…).

A few years back after having her first baby, Amy came over carrying several of her text books on anatomy, physiology and microbiology, which she left for me to use. They’re heavy! (I use them regularly.)


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

it rains, it pours…i draw

Teri, my friend who is an emergency nurse, upon seeing my virus study in social media, writes:
What did you do during the pandemic Monica?
Responding to herself she continues…I sketched it.


Enjoying the first part of Spring Break, I spend a couple of long days outdoors before the rains come. By end of week, I receive word school break is extended another week, to the 20th. News of COVID-19 fill the airwaves.

It rains. It pours. I draw.

Coronavirus: Internal structure. Note Spikes (glycoproteins) and single strand RNA

Fascinated by viruses, I note the coronavirus described as aesthetically pleasing. I agree.

In the studio the latter part of the week, I draw while listening to science podcasts, in general, on the subject of viruses, in particular on COVID-19. I learn about amplifier hosts and reservoir hosts. I learn words like retrovirus and zoonosis.

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It gets its name from the spikes on its surface which resemble a crown. There are a number of coronaviruses (including MERS and SARS).

I understand now COVID-19 is a concern because it is a single-stranded RNA virus (top image) that mutates quickly and can travel on a sneeze and a cough.

This is why Spring Break extends another week and events are cancelled – it’s logical.

coronavirus – external structure

Days flow…oddly different from morning to evening now. Tara, my neighbor, shows me a photo she takes of the empty fruit section at the grocery store today.

….Mostly Sunny, Partly Cloudy, Mostly Cloudy, Scattered Thunderstorms….

#WhoAmI? #WhatAmI? #WhatIsThisWorld? #WhatIsMyRelationshipToIt
#Art #Science #Curiosity #GottaHaveArt


Here are some educational (and so accessible) sources on viruses in general and some on COVID-19 in particular.

Out of ASU: Zombified Podcast is intelligent and makes learning easy, fun and sometimes…icky (in a good way).  This week they cover viruses. The episode was taped before current crisis began, making the ending play like a prediction.
 Bat shit featuring David Quammen

On COVID-19 in particular → David Quammen, Fresh-Air 

Everything virology, with last 7 episodes on COVID-19 → TWiV This Week in Virology

Food for thought (with valuable embedded links) →  How to act cooperatively in the face of a pandemic


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ