an illustration of Natural Killer (NK) Cells. NK cells are best known for killing virally infected cells, and detecting and controlling early signs of cancer.

Our immune system is essential to our health. It not only fights common ailments like cold and flu but recent medical breakthroughs have revealed its potential for fighting deadly diseases as well. But out of sight, out of mind, as the proverb goes, renders these friendly cells almost invisible, that is until we need them most. Japanese designer and illustrator Masanobu Ishii decided to create a series of detailed illustrations of the life-saving immune system cells.

Ishii scoured through medical literature prior to getting to work and his illustrations are based on scientific observations that are supplemented by his own imagination. Even with current micro-photography, the details of many of these cells are simply too small to observe. But one element that Ishii was keen on capturing was the idea that each of these cells has a will and consciousness that’s akin to our own, a theory that is becoming increasingly evident. Ishii imagined each cell as an autonomous world with numerous worlds within it.

Ishii’s illustrations were part of the Do Wonders art show last year in Tokyo that featured several works inspired by our immune system. The show has since ended but it has been documented here.

the illustrations were also used in a series of visually stunning advertisements for the exhibition, which were place in train stations around Tokyo

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