Sixth floor, Holiday Inn, Edinburgh: dawn.

I was invited to Edinburgh to give a talk about Merkel cell carcinoma

Edinburgh from Holiday Inn (5)

This skin cancer is more aggressive than melanoma but occurs more rarely.

It occurs more frequently as we age or in people with damaged immunity.  Sometimes it nestles in the same tissue with other cancer types.

Fascinatingly, in 2008, Drs Moore and Chang discovered that Merkel cell carcinoma harbours a novel virus.  Merkel cell polyomavirus turned out to be a common harmless inhabitant on our skin.  It gets into the predecessor of the cancer cell by an unhappy accident, perhaps helped by ultraviolet light.  When it does so, it is crippled, no longer able to make new viral progeny, forever integrated in stunted form in the cellular DNA. It encodes four genes and makes just six proteins.   Just one of these genes, mutated and truncated, contributes to the cancer.  The virus subverts its hosting cell but is itself subverted to drive and shape an evolving cancer.

Cancer is complex, driven by a myriad of dysfunctional and  repurposed pathways.  How do you break the Enigma, the encrypted cipher, the code of the Merkel cell carcinoma?  We need a crib or key: a simple message we already understand as a way in.  Merkel cell polyomavirus provides us with that key.

10 responses to “Sixth floor, Holiday Inn, Edinburgh: dawn.

  1. Hi. I’m so impressed you continue to shoehorn your art in amongst your day job. I have visions of you travelling around to various conferences clutching your binoculars, sketch pad and charcoal, sketching right up to your speech! Keep going, you’re always interesting.

    • Hi
      Thanks
      You have described things exactly. At the moment, painting is being squeezed, so i am trying to find time where i can. The Edinburgh trip was great. Ten hours uninterrupted on the train – really productive. So up there i felt i could take time to paint and visit two galleries. I haven’t posted yet on the John Bellany exhibition … It was stunning. I also could call in on my son who is studying furniture design. I am hankering after some real time and space to create a big piece again.
      Thanks for calling by.

    • Thanks
      It just seemed to fit together somehow.
      The microcosm is fascinating. We are looking at slides of these cancers, stained to show up vessels and immune cells. To interpret the immune environment, I have to be educated along the way by my pathologist colleague. We end up resorting to evocative geographical imagery, river deltas and islands and the like, as we navigate our way through. Another colleague has created high power views triple stained with markers that fluoresce under laser illumination. As well as being meaningful, these are also beautiful.
      It took a while for me to learn that science is about creating models, whether real or virtual or as thought experiments. There is overlap with art and an elegant model is a thing of beauty.

      • Really drawing/painting is also a way of modeling our impressions of reality, right? I often feel that I’m trying to understand something (not often sure exactly what) when I’m working on a piece.

  2. Fascinating text, very informative. The painting is very striking.. what a sky! And I love how you’ve indicated the city skyline. It must have been quite a view…

  3. Ironic, how that beautiful sky in your sketch could be so dangerous. Glad you’re looking after us and especially today with a heat wave here in Australia. Cheers

    • Do you know, I had not seen that irony until you pointed it out. I suppose I see the universe as dangerous and our very existence remarkably magnificently ridiculously precarious. We are made of corrosive fluid and breathe the toxic pollutant of plants and light our lives with nuclear radiation. Just being here at all is cause for celebration and so I painted a sky.
      Still, I hope you are protecting yourself from the sun!
      Thanks for calling by, and I enjoyed your blog also.

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