Here are things you probably didn’t know about your body. Now that you know, you’ll have more reasons to be thankful tomorrow.
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in America. Thanksgiving, however, is a good attitude for every human being to have every day. Of all people who have ever lived, we in 2016 are blessed to know the most about invisible processes that keep us alive.
Scavenger cells repair muscle fibers: New findings give insight into the cell membrane repair process of torn muscle fibers (Science Daily): If you plan to enjoy a little basketball, baseball or football before dinner, be thankful that you have tiny scavenger cells that go around repairing microruptures in your muscle cells. First, the cells create a patch, like a bandage, to keep the injured muscle cell from dying. Then the surgeons come. Researchers studied this process and observed “scavenger cells moving around within the muscle virtually perform nano-surgery to remove this repair patch later and restore the normal cell membrane structure.”
Cell extrusion mechanisms: Making sure to expel an unwanted cell (Science Daily): Your body tissues and organs rely on sheets of cells called epithelium. When epithelial cells die in a process called apoptosis (programmed cell death), they need to be extruded and replaced. French researchers looked into this process, and found it more complex than earlier believed. The body monitors the density of the sheets to make sure they are neither too loose nor too tightly packed. (This could be important when the stomach expands during a Thanksgiving feast.)
This study revealed, for the first time, that two distinct mechanisms exist to expel apoptotic cells from epithelial cell sheets. Selection between cell extrusion mechanisms is defined by cell density — cell crawling and lamellipodia extension is the predominant mechanism at low density, but purse-string contraction is favoured at high density. The existence of these complementary mechanisms could be important for ensuring the removal of unnecessary cells (e.g. apoptotic cells) in different circumstances to maintain the integrity of the epithelial cell sheet.
Sensor for blood flow discovered in blood vessels (Science Daily): We all know about the importance of blood pressure. Our blood vessels are constantly subjected to changes in pressure as the heart beats and vessels expand or constrict. How does the healthy body maintain the right pressure? “Scientists have been looking for a measurement sensor for many years that enables the translation of mechanical stimuli into a molecular response, which then regulates the tension in blood vessels,” this article says. Now, researchers at Max Planck Institute think they have found it. It’s an ion channel named PIEZO1. “PIEZO1 is activated by the mechanical stimulus” from high blood pressure, the article says. “It causes calcium cations to flow through the channel into the endothelial cells and thereby trigger a chain reaction.” Part of the reaction involves release of nitric oxide which expands the vessels, relieving the pressure. Mice with defective PIEZO1 channels had permanent high blood pressure.
New quality control revealed in immune T cell development (Science Daily): Did you know that your body has a multitude of “quality control” processes? One of them is reported in this article about your immune cells. Before your thymus allows a T cell into the blood cell, it has to pass a fitness test. Like the few, the proud, the Marines, “Only a small proportion of the T cells that begin their development ‘graduate’ and are allowed out of the thymus, into the bloodstream — the rest do not survive.” Semper fi.
Molecular ‘pillars’ team up to protect liver from toxic fat buildup (Science Daily): Many of us will regret the extra pounds put on the day after Thanksgiving, but our livers must be protected from excess fat. Two molecules work in tandem to prevent excess fat in the liver. Take away both, and “the results are catastrophic.” Scientists found something interesting; “The two molecules are back-up systems for each other, rather than a balance, as the team previously thought.” So if you can pat your belly safely after eating, be thankful you survived another potential catastrophe.
Discovering what keeps cellular cargo on track (Science Daily): Having some salad with your dinner? Be glad plant cells have well-equipped transportation systems. If you play Minecraft on the holiday weekend, you’ll appreciate this quote:
“Healthy cells operate as smoothly as the best Minecraft city imaginable,” said Federica Brandizzi, MSU Foundation Professor of plant biology. “The miniature cities are fully equipped with all of the facilities, or organelles, that are necessary for a smooth-running operation.”
Administration center, factories and even recycling centers are all there, running at 100-percent efficiency. In contrast to the infrastructures and city buildings in cells, however, the organelles, are not built on static foundations. They are huge, mobile cellular cargos that travel rapidly to reach resources and deliver products. When organelles go off the rails and mobility is disrupted, bad things happen.
This is describing your own cells, too. But the article focuses on plant cells, particularly on a newly-found protein SYP73. As the protein factory called endoplasmic reticulum moves around on molecular tracks, this protein “keeps cellular cargo on track, quite literally.” Did you know that about the lettuce leaf you’re munching?
We all have extraordinarily many reasons to be thankful. Not only is gratitude good for your own health (11/22/12), your Maker deserves it (11/27/14). These articles above provide just meager glimpses at thousands upon thousands of automated processes going on in your body that allow you to taste, smell, and enjoy good food. What goes on afterward to take that food and build your muscles, bones and organs is absolutely mind-boggling! All these things were woven together in your mother’s womb before you were even born (Psalm 139:13–18), as you developed from a single cell. Don’t neglect to offer the sacrifice of praise to your Creator, and then share what you have with others, which is pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:15–16).
This entry is a good spot to take a break for the Thanksgiving holiday. CEH will be back Sunday or Monday, or earlier if a big story breaks before then. Happy Thanksgiving!