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Science and Art

Osteoclasts have feelings too.

This week has been quite busy for me, and I haven’t gotten to address a number of things on the blog that I would like to (including the #womanspace outrage that is rightfully flooding the twitter-sphere/blogosphere). However, I thought I would take the time to post something quick and fun. My research focuses on signals involved in regulating osteoclast (the bone cells responsible for breaking down old and damaged bone) differentiation. Heather, blogging at Escaping Anergy, explains these cells and how they relate to immunology in more detail here. (She’s a finalist for the 2011 Blogging Scholarship, so go vote now!) As a hobby, I draw a little bit, so I recently made a couple of attempts at bringing some life to these awesome multinucleated cells.

Hope you enjoy!

This is my first sketch.

I followed this up with a color version of the same idea.

Traditionally, the bone remodeling process was thought to be largely dictated by osteoblasts (the cells that create new bone matrix), which secrete RANK Ligand to induce osteoclast differentiation; however, we now understand that osteoclasts aren’t as passive as was previously thought, and communicate with osteoblasts through Eph-Ephrin signaling. Furthermore, recent evidence (read more here and here,) is turning this model on its head, now suggesting that osteocytes (cells embedded in mature bone matrix, responsible for sensing microfractures and initiating bone repair) may be the primary source of RANKL that directs osteoclast differentiation. This drawing, however, harkens back to earlier days.  What a mean osteoblast…

Looming osteoblast

And finally, the perils of fusion. This next image imagines the horror these unsuspecting mononucleated osteoclasts must feel when they start fusing with their neighbor.  How would you like it?

The perils of fusion

My hope is to develop more in this series as I explore the “characters” of my favorite cells. If you have any type of cell you’d like to see in action, let me know. I’ll see what I can come up with and post it here.

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About aaronbroege

Aaron Broege is a visiting assistant professor at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. His research focuses on signaling pathways involved in differentiation of osteoclasts, cells that break down bone.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Osteoclasts have feelings too.

  1. Your drawings are AMAZING!!! I’d love to use these for my blog, teaching and/or seminars!! Keep up the great work! Bridging the gap between art and science is a really interesting way for the public experience science!! PS: Tom agrees your drawings are awesome!!! You are so talented!! Thanks again for all of your support for Escaping Anergy:The Immunology Research Blog!!!

    Posted by Heather | November 17, 2011, 9:33 pm
  2. Hey Aaron,

    Great drawings! I’m currently wrapping up my dissertation on RUNX2 and focus a lot on the ‘cellular conversations’ that occur between osteoblasts and osteoclasts. I really enjoyed the drawings, they gave me a good laugh! I’d love to use them in my defense (with credit to you), would that be alright with you?

    Anyway, thanks for the post and looking forward to seeing more!

    Posted by Anthony Martin | August 25, 2014, 11:59 am
  3. I LOVE these drawings! So great and hilarious!

    Posted by nat | September 22, 2016, 1:24 am

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