Wednesday, August 21, 2013

G-Protein Coupled Receptor Illustration - Can I get over my dislike of big pharma?

Final Illustration

As someone who supports preventative medicine through nutrition, pharmaceutical companies are not my favorite.  I never imagined myself working in any aspect of pharma, but I may be reneging that after the G-Protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) illustration experience.  Through my project research, I've gotten much better at reading scientific journal articles, in a way finding some enjoyment from them.

I started my topic search looking for GPCR pathways that related to digestion, hoping to find some tie-in to nutrition.  I came across a review article on ghrelin and its effect on appetite.  Seemed simple enough at first glance: more gherlin, more hunger.  My first draft of my illustration was made under the impression that the pathway was on the simpler side.  I used some illustrations I found online as journal articles.  Turns out, the illustrations that are easily found on a Google search aren't all that accurate!  Shocking.
First Draft - Many Imperfections...

With excellent help from Evelyn, the guest lecturer, I was able to dig deeper into the intricacies of the gherlin pathway.  In most illustrations you will see GABA going through a GPCR when it is truly an ion channel.  For a pharmaceutical company hoping to create an anti-obesity drug effecting the ghrelin pathway, a GPCR verus an ion channel is a big difference.  I learned a number of things during this assignment, but the biggest message was don't trust the illustration work that is out there.  Always verify with peer-reviewed journal articles and it doesn't hurt to have at least a second set of eyes look over an illustration for you.  It's easy to start trusting the accuracy of something you've stared at for hours.  Second opinions show your work in a new light.

So, have I gotten over my dislike of big pharma?  I wouldn't say I'm ready to jump on the pill-making train, but I do see where my skills as a medical illustrator can help push pharmaceutical companies in a direction I'm more comfortable with.