Electron microscopy on the runway

?Excuse me, but I have to ask, is that a Golgi body on your scarf?? That was the question from the biology student of a teacher who attended the most recent meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco. And because the teacher was wearing a scarf fashioned by electron microscopist Eve Reaven, the answer was yes. Reaven has been making scarves and ties based on subcellular structures such as mitochondria, Golgi bodies, the endoplasmic reticulum, hormo

Michael D. O'Neill
Feb 1, 2006

?Excuse me, but I have to ask, is that a Golgi body on your scarf?? That was the question from the biology student of a teacher who attended the most recent meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco. And because the teacher was wearing a scarf fashioned by electron microscopist Eve Reaven, the answer was yes.

Reaven has been making scarves and ties based on subcellular structures such as mitochondria, Golgi bodies, the endoplasmic reticulum, hormone secretory granules, actin filaments, and centrioles since 1999. ?I had been working with a few EM designs on my computer, thinking that scarves would be a reasonable way to display such patterns, but found that local manufacturers thought the patterns too complex for screen printing,? says Reaven.

Then, her husband, Gerald Reaven, a diabetes researcher at Stanford University, was invited by one of his postdocs to South Korea to give...

Reaven, now 77, earned her PhD in anatomy at the University of Chicago in 1954, working in a lab that had one of the first electron microscopes in the United States. Her work over the last several decades helped elucidate the scavenger receptor pathway responsible for the bulk uptake and utilization of lipoprotein cholesterol by cells. Until her retirement last year, Reaven was a career research scientist at the Veteran?s Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., and for many years had been a senior research associate in the department of medicine at Stanford.

She has never thought of herself as particularly artistic, but always carried a sketchbook when she went on outings with her three children. Her father, who was a surgeon, had always painted as a hobby. ?I remember that he had difficulty in sleeping the whole of each night, and would begin to paint about 4 a.m., go off to work at 7, then return in the afternoon for a nap.?

Her inspirations for the scarves and ties, she says, are the moments of magic she has experienced sitting alone in a dark room, when a beautiful informative image of wondrous life within a cell emerges. She recently confirmed the location of the receptor for the lipoprotein she has studied for decade, when an initial result observed a few years ago in adrenal tissue was finally confirmed just months ago in a cell system. ?For the last year or so, I have been trying to get a similar kind of effect in isolated cells in an unrelated cell line, and it had taken me a year to do it because somehow nothing was working,? she says ?Then, one day, very recently, I was in the microscope room and there it was. There were all of these cells reacting to the stimulus just as normal cells from this tissue would have reacted.?

?Your heart pumps,? Reaven says. ?You?re in there and you?re seeing it. You?ve been working for it and you know there?s truth in it because you?ve seen it in tissue, and now you?re seeing it in cells that don?t have any real identity except you?ve put this protein into them artificially and here they?re doing the same thing. It?s an exciting moment. It doesn?t happen often, but it does happen.?

Reaven?s scarves and ties, with names such as Energy, Passages, Motility, Fluidity, Divisions, and Modulators, are sold for about $25?$45 apiece at scientific meetings, such as the recent American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB) meeting in San Francisco, as well as on Reaven?s Web site (www.asliceoflifescarves.com). She confesses that the scarf and tie work has been distracting: It?s kept her from publishing the lipoprotein receptor result. But she?ll keep on. ?I am always experimenting,? she says. ?It?s similar to what I did in the laboratory. It makes it fun.?

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