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The PEAUrigami art exhibit was designed to educate participants to better understand the pathophysiology of skin using origami artwork with skin pattern-printed papers.
Vision-impaired patients with psoriasis were better involved through interactive experiences, such as tactile scientific origami art, wood-carved molecular models, and a haptic poster, according to a study published in Immunology and Cell Biology.1 Investigators therefore hypothesized accessible science communication which engages a variety of senses make science more inclusive and engaging for patients with a vast range of sensory abilities.
“Scientific outreach activities play an important role in disseminating knowledge, connecting the general public to research and breaking down scientific skepticism barriers,” wrote lead investigator Runqiu Song, BS, an intern in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Immunity and Infection Programs, Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University, Australia. “However, the vision-impaired community is often disadvantaged when the most common audio–visual approach of scientific communication is applied.”
The 2023 Monash Sensory Science exhibition was created to foster the principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity as well as help to create a more informed and scientifically literate public. It focused on circulating information about autoimmune diseases in the vision-impaired community. Although psoriasis affects 2-3% of the global population, it is often misunderstood as a contagious condition, which leads to stigma within this patient population who are often diagnosed with comorbidities such as anxiety and depression. Tactile clues in the scientific communication of immune processes in psoriasis were incorporated to help vision-impaired patients better understand the condition.
The PEAUrigami (peau translates to “skin” in French) art exhibit was determined to educate participants to better understand the pathophysiology of skin using origami artwork with skin pattern-printed papers. Previously, these compositions have been exhibited at dermatologic conferences and private dermatology practices.2
In this experiment, the origami art was specifically chosen to be smooth to emulate healthy skin. Conversely, the psoriasis panel included spiky origami which interrupted the flow of the hand for those with vision impairments, causing an uncomfortable feel. It included photographs of psoriatic plaques to show patients what the lesions looked like.
Patients were encouraged to explore the second station, a tactile poster of the skin in cross section, which allowed investigators to showcase both nonlesional and lesional skin side-by-side as well as help patients understand the anatomical and cellular levels of the skin. The poster identified skin in a steady state as smooth oats or coconut chips as psoriatic plaques. The epidermis was depicted using the hallmark features of psoriasis, including epidermal thickening, rete ridges on the lesional side, and redness. Participants were also able to familiarize themselves with factors associated with the immune response in this patient population.
The feedback during the session was overwhelmingly positive, including a visitor who commented, “Mum has psoriasis, but I don't understand it.” Most patients stated the means of the presentation was a “less scary” and “more accessible” way of introducing science to participants. Other subjects mentioned the exhibition helped to better understand how the condition impacts patients.
“Overall, we hope that we were able to not only increase the understanding of the autoimmune disease psoriasis, but also help visitors glean a deeper understanding of the skin and immune compartments within it,” investigators concluded. “We welcome anyone to take inspiration from the Monash Sensory Science communication program as it is rewarding for visitors and scientists alike. This approach can be used to educate and raise awareness among the general public about various skin conditions and other diseases.”