Dance as a medium to educate and make comprehensible the biology of allotransplant rejection
Pranitha Kamat1, Sharmila Bansal-Rao2, Gayatri Muthukrishnan2.
1Plastic and Hand Surgery, University of Zurich, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; 2Independent Researcher, -, Zurich, Switzerland
Background: Allotransplant rejection is a complex and continuing field of research. The detailed scientific explanations of transplant rejection is difficult to comprehend, not only for the non-scientific general public but also people related to the medical field (nurses, social workers and health practitioners to a certain extent). Knowing the biology of transplant rejection is essential to create educational awareness among potential donors, recipients, their families and the public in general.
Approach: Recent reports have confirmed dance to be very effective in communicating complex ideas to the public[1, 2]. Dance and cell biology both work according to established rules. Each cell, like a dancer in a group choreography, has a defined task to make the whole functional. We used the technique of Bharata Natyam (a traditional Indian dance form) to illustrate and aid visualization of transplant rejection with simple but relevant dance movement. We started with graft vasculopathy associated with allotransplant rejection.
Method: A science-dance workshop has been designed to target to high-school and medical students with a basic knowledge of biology. Each student takes on the role of a specialized cell in the vessel wall. Attributes such as flexibility, compactness, and smoothness are portrayed with equivalent choreographical elements. The middle smooth muscle cell layer of a vessel wall is composed of cells that are elongated and perform a contractile motion. Accordingly, the students adapt an elongated posture allowing movement of the upper torso to perform the contractile motion (Figure A). The innermost layer is made of the endothelial cells that form tight junctions to create a barrier wall. Accordingly, the students representing these cells use a posture that gives a stable and rigid appearance. The hands are placed in close contact with the partner which, together with the green cloth represent tight junctions (Figure B). The choreography then progresses into introducing immune cells. Each student representing the cells of the blood vessel react to the introduction of the immune cell as it happens biologically (Figure C). Finally, vasculopathy as seen with the movement of smooth vessel cells beyond the internal elastic lamina and occlusion of the vessel is illustrated (Figure D). The complete choreography can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJBZLALFQkQ&feature=youtu.be
Results: We have conducted one workshop with medical students. At the end, the students not only learnt the process of vasculopathy during allotransplantation but also appreciated the basic biology of cell-cell interaction and response.
Conclusion and Outlook: Evaluation of this method of using dance to communicate transplant biology to a non-scientific audience is ongoing with the help of questionnaires and feedback forms. Adapting the choreography for general public is also being considered.
 2. Laura Grabel, M.W.L.F.A.E.J.R.M.L.L., Science Choreography: A Movement-Based Approach to Biology Teaching. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 2013. 12: p. 582-583.
 1. Black Label Movement, J.B. Dance your PhD | John Bohannon & Black Label Movement | TEDxBrussels. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlDWRZ7IYqw.
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