Engaging Kids in the Wonders of Human Cells Through Biotech Art by ilus
Cellular biotech art — the beautiful images of human cells, reflecting life captured by laboratory scientists at the microscopic level. As chief executive officer of ilus Art, Janet Hubka and her staff are bringing this genre of art to kids and the public in exciting ways.
Originating in the laboratory as a result of cellular experiments in the field of regenerative medicine, the artwork of ilus (pronounced “ē-loos”, which means beautiful in Estonian) begins its development process when the cells are stained by lab researchers as a way of validating their research. “These scientists, whether in private or public institutions, spend their days looking for the source of disease and identifying treatments,” says Janet, who before launching the San Diego-based ilus, spent over 30 years managing multispecialty healthcare practices, in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.
To create the images, she says, scientists grow the cells and then chemically fix them to preserve the structure and appearance of the cells. The cells are then treated with fluorescent probes, such as antibodies and dyes, which recognize and bind to specific structures within the tissue. Visualization and image capture of the fluorescent probes is accomplished using a digital camera attached to a microscope. The images are then saved by the scientist to validate their research. Some of the images are vetted by the ilus Art team for their artistic quality and used to create unique, modern art pieces.
Through their vibrant K-12 education outreach program, ilus focuses on inspiring scientific curiosity in students through art. “Our program introduces students to the beauty of cells that make up the tissues of their own bodies,”says Janet. “We believe that art should be officially integrated into schools’ STEM programs to enlighten students about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with Art as a means to further engage students in the STEM fields. We believe that for some students, it’s just one thing, one lecture that can ignite the fire of curiosity and discovery, which sets them on a path to become the next great scientist, doctor, teacher, engineer or artist.”