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Explain a disease process by visually depicting a pathological change over time 


While the exact cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) remains unknown, it is clear that the immune system plays a key role in the progression of this disease.


Although the immune system is designed to protect from harm, people with MS have an immune system that attacks the nerves in their body and contributes to the deterioration of myelin, the protective coat surrounding the nerves in the central nervous system. Studying this immunological attack will shed light on possible therapies for this disease. 


Date: December 2020

Client: Professor Shelley Wall

Audience: Educated Lay Audience

Software: Maya, ZBrush, Photoshop, Illustrator

Format: Didactic 2-page spread 

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Once I chose the topic of multiple sclerosis, I began to narrow down the story that I wanted to tell. After my initial research, I realized there was already many illustrations depicting multiple sclerosis on a larger tissue scale. I found a lack of visualizations that showcased the immunological attack behind myelin degradation, so this is what I chose to focus my piece on, and my research focused on gaining a clear understanding of the immune elements associated with multiple sclerosis.


After I had a strong understanding of the key players involved in the immune attack, I began to create sketches of tissue cubes to showcase the myelin deterioration in MS. However, I found that this larger tissue scale did not allow for the focus to be placed on the myelin degradation that is a hallmark of MS. To overcome this challenge, I created a comprehensive sketch and various colour thumbnails that focused on a small number of neurons instead of large amounts of tissue.   


I decided to create this piece in 3D since I wanted to depict an immersive environment. The models were created and sculpted in ZBrush and were based off of multiple scanning electron microscopy images to ensure that the cells were being accurately portrayed.


Once the models were brought back into Maya, I began to experiment with texturing and lighting. Some of the more complex models had displacement maps associated with them that were brought over from ZBrush. I chose organic textures that differed in texture and colour between cells to ensure that the viewer would be able to properly distinguish the various components in this process.



I brought the final render from Maya into Photoshop, where I began to edit the image for maximum impact and clarity. I heightened some of the colours to ensure that they were distinguishable and added various other visual elements such as the cytokines. This edited image was then brought into Illustrator where text and graphical elements were added.

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