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.
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