Inflammasome Series [Four Pieces]
Stained Glass
32"h x 15" w


Rubor, Tumor, Calor, Dolor - redness, swelling, heat, and pain: the four characteristics of inflammation. A fifth might be Amor - the adhesiveness of small blood vessels for white blood cells which adhere to and pass through blood vessel walls to enter tissue and act in ways both protective and potentially harmful.

Fundamental in the inflammatory process is the inflammasome (upper panel), an organelle which forms in our cells in response to "danger" signals such as infection or injury, Composed of several types of protein "subunits," the inflammasome, once assembled, activates an otherwise quiescent enzyme, caspase 1. This enzyme produces a protein known as Interleukin-1, one of the major mediators of inflammation. A ribbon model of IL-1 appears in the bottom panel.

Interleukin-1 triggers vasodilitation (opening of small blood vessels) and increased vascular permeabilitiy (leakiness) of blood vessels, both hallmarks of inflammation and causes of the redness and swelling.. Recent work has demonstrated that antibodies to IL-1 can have a beneficial effect on atherosclerosis, a condition to which inflammation contributes. Winding gently through the background is the artery, carrying red blood cells, and towards the bottom, atherosclerotic plaque. Because white blood cells are typically stained with a blue dye for visualization, they are shown within the atherosclerotic plaque as blue cells with a dark blue nucleus and with yellow (cholesterol) crystals, the latter characteristic of atherosclerotic plaque.


These four pieces are in the collections of:

* Dr. Peter Libby, Former Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

* Dr. Paul Ridker, Chief of Cardiovascular Disease, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

* Dr. Eicke Latz, Director of the Institute of Innate Immunity, Bonn, Germany

* Anonymous