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Graphical Abstract and Cell Cover Art

for iPSC-derived Platelet Project

 Platelets are the primary cells that stop bleeding and also have immunological function. Patients suffering from various diseases or undergoing surgery suffer from low platelet counts and therefore receive regular blood transfusions. However, platelets can only be stored for a few days before losing their function, which is why organizations like the Red Cross hold regular blood drives. While the collection and storage of platelets from donors has been the international standard, many countries including Japan anticipate insufficient platelet supplies in the next decade or two.

 In a new study seen in the journal Cell, Dr. Koji Eto and his team at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, show a new way that involves turbulence to increase platelet numbers outside the body. Using this new information, they designed a bioreactor that produces enough platelets from iPS cells for patient care, offering a potential alternative to donor platelets.  

The paper and related press releases can be seen at the following links.

(Cell in press) doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.06.011

(CiRA press-release)


 Dr. Eto invited me to join the project by requesting a graphical abstract for the paper. On its website, Cell describes the graphical abstract as a, "one single-panel image that is designed to give readers an immediate understanding of the take-home message of the paper." (Cell press graphical abstract guidelines" Recently, many journals have encouraged researchers to accompany their papers with science illustration as a way to help readers visualize the main innovation of the research. 

 It is quite challenging to summarize the essence of an erudite paper in 996 pixels square. To make it simple and clear as possible, I applied 3C: contrastive, consistent, and C-curve eye flow. Regarding Dr. Eto's paper, the contrast was in vivo vs. ex vivo, the consistent was the key cells: megakaryocyte, turbulence, and platelets. The terminal eye flow area was the bottom-right of the illustration where many platelets are seen, which reflects that main achievement of the paper, making the overall eye flow as "C-curve."

Final graphical abstract used for the paper.


   Cell Cover Submission 

 Along with graphical abstracts, Cell welcomes artwork for its cover that is related to one of the manuscripts published in the issue (see Cell Cover Submission guidelines.) Dr. Eto is a person who loves art and he happily agreed to my suggestion to create a cover art and submit it to Cell. I was so grateful that he trusted my inspiration and let me create as I like without any restraints. I had had just created the graphical abstract and I knew the essence of the paper. I conceived of a woman blowing flower petals into the air. 

Initial rough sketch of the cover art. I picked the left one since blowing petals right upward look more positive and "hopefulling".

 The woman is a metaphor for megakaryocytes, and the petals are a metaphor for platelets. I decided to paint the Gogh style background to imply turbulence. After making a rough sketch, I did a test on a watercolor paper using acrylic and watercolor paint. It was OK... but I wanted the petals to have a stronger impact. I wondered maybe using real petals would work and went out to see what kind of petals are available in this season (it was around June and no cheery blossom are available, unfortunately.)

South Kamo River in April. The center is the Kyoto tower.

Oenothera rosea, also known as evening primrose.

 CiRA is located close to Kamo River in Kyoto. The riverbank is a very popular walking spot for residents and tourists. It was there that I saw evening primrose wildly growing along the river's edge. I collected a pile of petals and scattered them onto some paper.

A blue woman with Gogh style background. The background was referred to Portraits of Vincent van Gogh. Acrylic and water color.

Scattered petals of evening primrose.

 There were two worksheets being made: a blue woman with background and scattered petals. I scanned both and then used Adobe Photoshop to combine them and produce the final product.

 I am not sure who was more excited, Dr. Eto or me, but we celebrated together when Cell announced our artwork was selected for the cover.

A finished Cover Art (with official Cell logo.)

The official legend of the art, as published by Cell, is as follows: "On the cover: In this issue of Cell, Ito et al. (636–648) describe how turbulence regulates platelet production from megakaryocytes and is a determining factor in ex vivo platelets at clinical scale. The cover shows a woman blowing petals in the background of Gogh style turbulence. "

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