Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Comic Strip.

RA1-001 RA2-001 RA3-001

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which attacks synovial joints all over the body, such as wrists, hips and fingers. The word “arthritis” may conjure up an idea of a disease affecting the elderly, but the average age of onset for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is between 30-50 years, and it can affect people of any age including children.

RA is essentially an out-of-control immune response. In many cases, the cause is citrullinated antigens. These antigens cause the immune system to produce large quantities of anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPAs) which can become deposited in the joints. Inflammation of the joint occurs, perpetuated by an inflammatory molecule called Tumor  Necrosis Factor (TNF). Eventually, joint synovial cell growth becomes uncontrolled, with further consequences for surrounding bone. If this inflammatory response is left untreated, RA can lead to bone erosion and deformity. The goal of RA treatments is to prevent the erosion of bone, by targeting inflammatory molecules such as TNF.

I have designed and created a comic strip to illustrate part of the process which leads to bone erosion in RA. I believe that comic strips are an extremely useful tool for science education. Each stage of the process can be illustrated and described, in a fun and appealing format. They have an edge on videos and animations, in that if a reader of a comic strip does not understand something or becomes “lost”, it is easy to look back a few frames to go over a concept again. In an animation, if one small thing is missed, the whole of the rest of the video may  not be understood.

If you’d like any more information about my work, please feel free to comment on this post.



3 Responses to “Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Comic Strip.”

  1. Dr. Sickels March 14, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    Nice comic, I wish I had a need to comics like this to illustrate how things work for my patients, but I don’t have enough of any particular thing to warrant commissioning a comic.
    It was interesting to read this right after your article on Natalizumab, as the TNF blockers you mention near the end show a similar problem problem to Natalizumab in that blocking TNF allows cancers to start up more easily and increases some cancer risks dramatically.

  2. suzannevickers March 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Hi Dr Sickels
    Many thanks for your comment, that is really interesting about TNF blockers increasing cancer risks. There really is no magic bullet of a drug is there – all medicines come with side effects of some kind.
    I really enjoy drawing comics to illustrate scientific concepts and I believe that they make science easier to understand. I think that there is a gap in the market for comics which illustrate diseases. They would help patients – both adults and children – to better understand their illness through a familiar medium. I hope to pursue this idea, and if you have any tips or advice on particular diseases I should target I would be very grateful.
    Best wishes

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