stem cells in their environment

Work in Progress: Hilary Anne Rosen & Dr Mukul Tewary

May 2019

by Jessica Sells, Public Engagement Officer for the CSCRM

Artist Hilary Anne Rosen is working with bioengineer Dr Mukul Tewary for the Art-Science collaboration, entitled 'Illuminations', which is exploring stem cell research via art. Mukul and Hilary began working together in December 2018, culminating in some preliminary works created by Hilary based on images from Mukul's research into how stem cells organise themselves into distinct cell types that emerge during the very early stages of embryonic development, specifically how they give rise to the skin.

'Cells in the gastruloid' by Dr Mukul Tweary

Hilary has produced watercolour paintings, mono prints and embroidery pieces inspired by images of Mukul's gastruloids (groups of stem cells which represent early stages of embryo development). In his images, cells in the gastruloid have been stained to show the presence of proteins that are typically observed in the three germ layers (endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm), which are the first distinct cell types that come from stem cells in a developing embryo, and eventually give rise to specific tissue types. For instance, the ectoderm gives rise to tissues such as the skin, the eyes, the brain among others, the mesoderm gives rise to the blood, the bones, the heart, the skeletal muscle, among others, and the endoderm generates the pancreas, the liver, the intestines, among others.

Watercolours by Hilary Anne Rosen

Describing her images, Hilary said "Represented here are the Ectoderm (in blue), Mesoderm (in green), and the Endoderm in (in red). I have made watercolour and monoprints of each one, plus a sample embroidery on Perspex. I am planning another meeting with him (Mukul) so I can do further scientific research on the subject."

Mono prints by Hilary Anne Rosen

"The watercolours and mono prints were made by overlaying the medium (i.e. watercolour) with spattering marks to give the speckled effect. I am now working on the final stages of the three germ layers of the epiblast. I am also planning to make the embroidered surfaces bigger and more textured plus having them displayed in a light box"

Embroidery by Hilary Anne Rosen

In terms of his experience of working with Hilary on this project so far, Mukul says "I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience! Being able to communicate the science that we are working on in the lab to a broad audience is an important responsibility of scientists. Working closely with artists achieves this by not only disseminating the information to experts of another field, but this initiative also reaches members of the larger community that are the target audience of these incredible artists. Scientists typically take strong steps to disseminate their work to their peers, but this can at times miss the broader community. I find this initiative very valuable as I believe this will result in a far broader dissemination of our work than has been achieved thus far. In addition, I am eagerly looking forward to learning some techniques that artists employ in their day-to-day work to see if we can incorporate things into the engineering approaches that we use in our lab.”

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