Adding in my description that was submitted to the assignment page but not here for additional clarity.
The initial idea form my project and the final result ended up being a little different, as my original graphic novel idea would have been too much to take on at this time, and it wouldn’t have done as well in covering my objective. So I simplified it just a bit to turning cells into characters, which is the main idea of the novel. My objective with this is to compare and contrast the function and structural characteristics of different tissues on the cellular level, making cells easy to identify and their roles (and how they achieve that) easier to comprehend. After a while, slides of microscopic cells all start to look like blobs, so this should make key cells stand out and make their function memorable. I did not cover every unique cell in the body, just key ones that we have been learning about and others that do have significance in anyone’s understanding of biology.
Red Blood Cells – This was my starting point, as the main character of the story itself is a young red blood cell, more formally called an erythrocyte. Blood cells are responsible for a diverse range of chores all related to transportation, most importantly dispersing oxygen throughout the body. Blood also transports various nutrients and wastes. Blood cannot undergo mitosis as it does not have a nucleus, and thereby doesn’t have any DNA to replicate. With all of this in mind, I gave the blood cells a very sea turtle-like design, keeping the dented body shape while incorporating that into the flippers and head ruff. This draws attention to the mobility of blood, and their paddle shaped appendages are ideal for guiding particles through the plasma. The societal role they play is that of servants, considered the lowest class as they constantly tend to the needs of other cells. However, the life of the blood cell is also the most adventurous.
White Blood Cells – White blood, or leukocytes, is the body’s defense mechanism. They are responsible for identifying and attacking foreign pathogens as well as disposing infected cells. The can release antibodies to attack, and some only live long enough to spawn and perform their attack on a specific target. Unlike erythrocytes, they can leave the blood vessels in a process called emigration. So when designing white blood as a character, I both wanted them to be identifiable as ‘blood’ but stand out significantly from the more passive red cell. So I kept the general body shape of the fins and head, but gave them a more sea-urchin look, overexaggerating the spiky appearance of microscopic white cells. These are the enforcers of society, each ready to mercilessly take life and lay down their own.
Nerve Cells – These are, admittedly, my favorite of the bunch, and that’s probably my psychology major showing bias. The basic structure and function of nerve cells is rather simple to understand, but the amount of things they are able to achieve is almost incomprehensible. In short, nerve are the body’s primary communication system (working in tandem with the endocrine system). The head of the cell, or soma, contains the nucleus surrounded by dendrites which receive incoming neurotransmitters, the information is sent down the axon till it reaches the axon terminals where neurotransmitters are sent across the synaptic cleft and the process repeats. I designed the character versions to greatly resemble the Chinese dragon, the dendrites acting as a mane and the myelin covered axon working as a long, elegant body, with the axon terminals able to be a fringed tail. This balances an energetic playfulness with deep wisdom commonly associated with eastern dragons. These have the highest rank, being some of the longest lived cells and the one’s responsible for overseeing the entire body, including the world beyond other cells’ comprehension.
Skeletal Muscle Cell – Everyone knows that muscle cells attach to bones and contract in order to provide movement, but what people don’t often know, myself included until this course, is how muscles achieve that. While my visuals here don’t in themselves describe the process of action potential, the crossbridge, the role of ATP and so forth, I could provided a visual representation of the myofibril and their general pattern of A-bands and I-bands. This also allows for a clear indicator of an individual cell’s strength based on how many myofibril they have. That is why this particular character is colored in, because if I simply tried to sketch all of that it’d be too visually confusing. Another key visual is all the many nuclei that skeletal muscles have. Like red and white blood, I gave nerve and skeletal muscle the same general body structure due to both of them having instance where they are extremely long as well as both sharing the common trait of excitability.
Adipose Cells – Adipose tissue, or connective tissue proper loose adipose, is the body’s storage system known as fat. The entire purpose of adipose is to store excess energy until the body needs it, so here I created the one cell character that acts more as an animal. I designed them to be a mix between cattle and honey globe ants, a real life instance of an insect being overfed to store nutrients for the rest of the colony. Their heads and legs are small and almost useless, with mandibles to draw attention to their food intake as well as link them to the ant. This one I colored just for fun.
Osteoblasts & Osteoclasts – Bone cells are something I’ve always been curious about, and now that I’ve learned about them in depth I was eager to give them designs that helped distinguish them from one another. While most cells have a singular nucleus, I decided to make the osteoblast a cyclops to contrast it with the osteoclast’s many nuclei, and thereby many eyes. This is the first case where I wanted to emphasize the matrix creation of connective tissue, and because osteoblast’s are meant to produce a lot and encase themselves, I wanted to make it look somewhat out of control for the character. The cell depicted has not solidified it’s colleen matrix yet. Once an osteoblast matures into an osteocyte, they settle into their sedentary life and chat with each other across the canaliculi, loosing function of their one eye as it’s no longer helpful. The idea here is something like a bunch of elderly people forever playing a drawn out card game, no one in a hurry to end it. Osteoclasts have a similar alien-like aesthetic, but here they are more like starfish with their ability to eat away at the bone. The design is fairly close to what is depicted in the text with some crab-like legs for movement. These cells have the common trait of getting hyper-focused on their task, foreshadowing the issue of osteoporosis.
Endocrine Cells – Where most connective tissue fills the lower to middle class societal roles, the epithealial are the upper middle class group. Location and functions of these cells are very diverse, so here I’m focusing on the shape classification of the cells. The squamous cells are designed a bit like a horseshoe crab to give them that flat, scale-like look. The cuboidal cell is meant to be rather bland in appearance so that small characteristics can be added and removed to indicate their individual roles. These are the cells who think of themselves as being very important, often arguing with each other about which has a more important job. The columnar cells are a little more refined, but still haughty. I largely based their design on the Egyptian art of Anubis, the tall stoic dog. This is a tentative design in need of refinement, but it does well to communicate the cell’s shape. Similarly, the pseudostratified cells unfinalized, I threw the little sketch of it in to conceptualize an idea. All of these cells share a commonality in the structure of their front limbs, which are paw-like in design and attach them to the basal layer. They aren’t meant for movement, as no epithealial would see any reason to move.
That concludes all the cells that I designed for this project. I will continue to design other cells on my own time and will further develop the world and story the more I learn about the intricacies of the body and it’s tissues.
Ashelyn Rude’s project is titled “Cells Turned Into Cartoon Characters.” The class objective that her project expands on is to compare and contrast the function and structural characteristics of different tissues on a cellular level. Rude created various character types for each cell shown to demonstrate their purpose in the human body. The first cell characterized is a young red blood cell called an erythrocyte. This character is drawn like a sea turtle with a dented body shape and multiple flippers to aid in its travel throughout the body. Rude then goes on to describe and draw many cells, including white blood cells, nerve cells, skeletal muscle cells, adipose cells, osteoblasts and osteoclasts, and endocrine cells. Each cell is described in the accompanying essay, plus a cartoon drawing of the inspired character. Rude’s favorite cell is the nerve cell due to her psychology major status. This cell is drawn as a long Chinese dragon, connecting the strength and wisdom of the dragon to the role nerve cells play in the brain and entire body. The head of the dragon is surrounded by a long mane of dendritic tendrils, followed by a long myelin covered axon body, and ending in a fringed axon terminal tail. Rude visually displayed the key characteristics of each cell in these cartoons in a simple yet meaningful and descriptive way. She also created a few additional drawings for various epithelial cells, as Rude intends to continue her graphic novel concept in the future as she continues her anatomy studies.
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