September 10, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Body Wonders at the Cellular Level

If we kept track of all the nano-scopic processes that keep us alive, we would be giga-astonished.

Origami prize:  Two scientists won the Lasker Prize, Nature reports, for discovering how cellular machines in the endoplasmic reticulum help assemble and fold proteins.  This is vital, because misfolded proteins can build up in the cells and tissues of the body, leading to major health problems.  One of the researchers, Kazutoshi Mori, described her feelings at the wonder of discovery:

We wanted to find the molecular machinery that allows one component of the cell to talk to another. There was virtually nothing known about what was taking place…. The deeper we dove, however, the more complex it became and the more beautiful it became….

We discovered machinery by which the cell has the capacity to fold the protein properly and pathway by which this happened. We mapped the components of the pathway and everything turned out to be more exciting than we could have hoped for.

Self-repairing heart:  There are stem cells in the coronary arteries on hand to repair damaged heart tissues, Science Daily reveals.  Research at Vanderbilt shows that you are not stuck with the same heart you had as a child; stem cells continually regenerate heart tissue.  Heart failure is not so much an issue of growing old, but of failure in the built-in repair mechanisms that keep the heart ticking.

Resonant neurons:  How can nerves communicate over long distances in the body and brain?  The answer may be resonant frequences, an article on Science Daily suggests.  Scientists at the University of Freiberg identified resonances that may help neurons share information:

Not all nerve cells excite other cells; some inhibit the activity of others. This means that the activity in a network can oscillate around a certain level of activity as a result of the interplay of excitation and inhibition. These networks typically have preferred frequencies at which oscillations are particularly strong, just as a taut string on a violin has a preferred frequency. If the activity tunes into this frequency, pulses propagate much farther. As the scientists point out, the combination of oscillatory signals together with resonance induced amplification may be the only possible form of long distance communication in certain cases. They further suggest that a network’s ability to change its preferred frequency may play a role in the way how information is at times processed differently in the brain.

Eye haze filter:  Yellow pigments in the macula of the eye may act as a haze filter, Medical Xpress reported about findings at the University of Georgia.  “We’ve found that the yellow filters out the effects of blue haze,” Billy Hammond said. “The pigment affects how far people can see outdoors and how they can adapt to their environment.”

Skin calculator:  We know that brain neurons interact heavily to perceive and plan many things, but did you know that neurons in the skin have some of that calculating ability?  Medical Xpress says that tactile neurons perform “advanced calculations” before the brain gets the message of touch:

“Perhaps the most surprising result of our study is that these peripheral neurons, which are engaged when a fingertip examines an object, perform the same type of calculations done by neurons in the cerebral cortex. Somewhat simplified, it means that our touch experiences are already processed by neurons in the skin before they reach the brain for further processing” says Andrew Pruszynski.

Trash truck antennas:  Scientists at Salk Institute found that two receptors on macrophages, the trash-collecting cells of the immune system, are specialized for specific roles.  Previously, the two types of receptors were thought to be interchangeable, but this new finding shows that the two work cooperatively on the vital task of keeping our tissues and vessels free of dead-cell trash that accumulates normally as we live and move.

Cilia motor:  Thank God for dynein-2, a molecular motor that delivered cargo to the cilia on your cells during development.  Malfunctioned cilia, Medical Xpress says, are responsible for many health problems called ciliopathies, resulting in things like “blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory infections, kidney disease, heart disease, infertility, obesity and diabetes.”  Researchers at Bristol University found, for the first time, how human cytoplasmic dynein-2 works, by identifying “new components of the motor” (it’s called a “motor” nine times in the brief article).

Don’t underestimate your mind’s eye is the headline of an article on Medical Xpress about the “image processing” the eye performs on a scene before your brain sees it.  You can see much more than what you think, “thanks to your finely tuned mind’s eye, which processes images without your even knowing.”  Results of experiments at the University of Arizona bear on philosophical questions about perception, shedding light on “why we sometimes make decisions—stepping into a street, choosing not to merge into a traffic lane—without really knowing why.”  Even objects we are not consciously perceiving can influence our actions, they found: “we have now shown that the meaning of an object can be accessed before conscious perception,” showing there is more interplay before memory and perception than previously thought.

Most of these articles had little use for evolutionary concepts.  The last one, though, speculated that the ability to respond subliminally makes “evolutionary sense.”

On “evolutionary sense,” see sophoxymoroniac in the Darwin Dictionary.

Setting aside the Darwinspeak (a kind of Newspeak), these articles should cause us to stand in awe of the glory of the Creator of these marvels.  Is that your response?

 

 

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