Blood Cells Act as Multi-Purpose Truckers
Blood Cells: Oxygen-Carrying Trucks That Have a Host of Functions
New Research Shows How the Body Shows Striking Evidence of Intelligent Design
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
One of my masters theses for medical school researched tumor markers. Tumor markers are body indications of a disease state such as cancer. An example is substances found in higher-than-normal levels in the blood, urine, or tissues of cancer patients. This research has helped me to realize the enormous complexities of supposedly simple body parts. One prime example is blood. Its roles, up until recently, were thought to be confined to carrying oxygen to body cells and escorting carbon dioxide and other toxins out of the body, engaging the clotting system to prevent hemorrhaging, and producing leukocytes (white blood cells) to fight disease.
One of the latest findings relating to my master’s thesis was that certain blood cells, specifically monocytes, a type of leukocyte, can serve as a ‘thermometer’ to detect breast cancer. As the researchers explain, monocytes patrol the body looking for threats, including viruses, bacteria and tumor (cancer) cells. Monocytes are physically the largest blood cells, but numerically only account for about seven percent of leukocytes. They are “produced in the bone marrow and travel in the bloodstream to other tissues where they differentiate into macrophages (cells that engulf and destroy pathogens and apoptotic cells) or dendritic cells (cells that process antigen material and present it on the cell surface to the immune system structures that produce specific antibodies).” The new research covered here has discovered that monocyte immune cells in the blood of breast cancer patients undergo alterations early in the course of breast cancer development, potentially serving as a tumor marker at a time when treatment is most successful.
The researchers collected monocytes from the blood of a large sample of breast cancer patients. They then attempted to differentiate them in the laboratory into pro-inflammatory macrophages. These cells cause the immune system to send cancer-fighting cells to the tumor. Early identification, especially of aggressive tumors, help not only to enhance treatment but also to personalize immunotherapy treatment strategies. In short, the researchers
analyzed monocyte gene expression to determine which messenger RNAs the cells were producing. The analysis identified alterations to several signaling pathways, even in patients whose cells differentiated into macrophages like they should in healthy subjects…. “This confirms that breast cancer isn’t just a local disease. It doesn’t affect only the breast, but affects all cells systemically. The defense cells are already altered when they enter the bloodstream,” [the researcher] Barbuto said.”
Normally, the body very effectively fights cancer, but age, a weakened immune system, genetic susceptibility, poor diet, and occupational exposure to high levels of carcinogens cause premature cancer tumors. Whatever the cause of the cancer, early diagnosis is critical and blood evaluations are one approach that may be a major method in achieving this goal. It is one more example where the body can tell us early that something is wrong, similar to the gauges in an automobile that inform us of an overheated engine, or that we are low on gasoline, or the tires are underinflated. Most cancers develop slowly over many years; others are more aggressive and can cause death in a matter of months. Detection of monocyte alteration early, when no signs of the disease exist, enables evaluations to determine if something is wrong, like cancer.
Note: In invertebrates and other animals that lacked bones, the stem cells that produced blood were located in the kidney marrow. To protect these cells from mutation causing UV radiation in sunlight, a protective umbrella of melanocytes shaded these critic cells. Evolution teaches that when non-bone celled animals evolved, the cells were effectively protected by placing the blood producing cells in the bone, specifically in bone marrow. How the kidney marrow evolved from the kidney to inside of bone is another major unsolved problem for evolution.
Evolution or Intelligent Design? The Best Location of Blood Stem Cells
In humans and mammals, the stem cell niche location that produces all blood cell types, including erythrocytes (red blood cells), leukocytes, and platelets, is in the bone marrow. Conversely, the blood-producing stem cells in teleost fish are not in the bone, but in the kidney marrow! Kidney marrow is the equivalent to the hematopoietic bone marrow of mammals. It produces all major blood cell types, and morphologically resembles their mammalian counterparts. Since Darwinism teaches that mammals evolved up from fish in their early evolutionary history, this discovery has created another chasm between mammals and fish. When a half century ago when biologists first learned that blood develops in a specific location in the body, a location called the ‘blood stem cell niche’, they wondered why this function exists in very different locations in different animals.
Evidence now exists that the reason for the stem cell location is to protect blood stem cells from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays present in sunlight. These stem cells are critical and must be protected because blood cells are produced throughout the lifetime of all higher organisms. Humans continuously replace their blood cells throughout their life span. Erythrocytes alone are replaced due to wear and tear in the circulatory track after about 120 days of use. Each day, the kidneys filter the equivalent of 60 times the total body’s blood plasma, specifically from 120 to 152 quarts (113 to 144 liters) of blood, creating 1 to 2 quarts (0.94 to 1.8 l) of urine daily. That requires filtering 1200 cc of blood per minute.  This rate produces 1700 liters (1800 quarts) of urine per day. This kidney filtering activity causes cell damage. Because erythrocytes are enucleated and cannot repair their own cell damage as do most other cell types, they must be replaced by stem cell production of new erythrocytes. Otherwise, the organism will soon die from anemia or infection.
Identifying the best location for the stem cell niche requires meeting a large number of requirements. All stem cell niches must provide structural support, have access to molecular signals from outside, produce proteins that tether stem cells to the niche location and help to regulate stem cell metabolism. Stem cells also must be protected from mutation-causing ultraviolet light in stem cell niches. In humans and vertebrates that have bony skeletons, the ideal location is inside of the bone. Notably, according to the orthodox evolution consensus, the source of genetic variety (thus evolution) is mutations. The journal Nature admits that the niche also must limit “unnecessary stem cell divisions, presumably both to prevent stem cell exhaustion (in which stem cells lose the ability to regenerate cell lineages) and to minimize the number of genetic mutations that arise during DNA replication, maintaining the fidelity of the genome.”
Different niche locations exist in different species to meet the many critical blood stem cell requirements noted above. The intelligent design view postulates that the niche that satisfies all of these requirements is where the marrow will be located, which is what we find in nature. Thus, the blood stem cells in birds and mammals is in the bone marrow, and in the kidney marrow in fish, and in the bone and liver marrow in frogs. Evolutionary theory opines that niches “evolved at sites that minimize damage from ionizing radiation.” Thus, evolutionists posit that during the transition to terrestrial life, ultraviolet light produced evolutionary pressure that affected the location of the hematopoietic niche.
Figure 1. A 1940’s diagram of the evolution from single-celled life to modern humans showing the supposed fish-to-amphibian stage in the top panel.
Evolutionists have only a just-so story to explain how the niche for blood cell development migrated from the kidney marrow in fish to the bones of birds and mammals. The story does not explain how the animal survived until such a transition was complete. Such a transition totally lacks fossil support and any other empirical evidence. Although the stem cells in the kidney marrow of tadpoles migrate to the bone marrow as it becomes an adult frog, this observation does not help the evolutionary story, because the entire transfer system from kidney to bone marrow had to be programmed in the DNA to achieve this transition. Thus design is required because tadpoles do not have bones, but frogs do. The entire development from tadpole to frog is designed. The stem cells in adults are either in the kidney marrow as in teleost fish, or are bone-located, as in adult frogs.
Kidney Stem Cells Protected by a Melanocyte Umbrella
The assumption that water would have provided aquatic organisms with protection from damaging ultraviolet (UV) light was experimentally determined to be incorrect. The problem is the model organisms—zebrafish and other fish—often live in clear water that offers very little UV protection. During embryonic stages, zebrafish are largely transparent. This makes them suitable for electronic imaging by fluorescently-labeled cells in the lab, but does not offer them protection in their natural habitat.
Conversely, visualization of the hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells population was consistently obscured by pigmented cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for human skin color. It was also found that the “umbrella of melanocytes associated with the hematopoietic [kidney] niche is highly evolutionarily conserved in aquatic animals, including the sea lamprey, a basal vertebrate”, meaning it was very likely constructed by a similar design in both the so-called primitive and advanced aquatic life. Specifically, “all teleost fish analyzed (Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish), Gasterosteus aculeatus (three-spined stickleback), Lepomis macrochirus (bluegill), and Lepomis microlophus (redear sunfish) had melanocytes covering the hematopoietic kidney marrow.”
Figure 2. Image courtesy of Dr. F. Kapp Published in Nature. The first illustration on the left shows the melanocytes effectively protecting the stem cells in the kidney marrow. The second illustration illustrates when the fish were turned over so the melanocyte protection of the stem cells in the kidney marrow could no longer block the UV rays; large numbers of mutations resulted. This experiment effectively shows that the role of the melanocyte umbrella is to reduce mutations caused by UV radiation from the Sun.
Researchers used genetic engineering to generate zebrafish lacking melanocyte UV protection for their kidney marrow. The result was hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells developed normally, documenting that the pigmented cells are not essential for hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell development or maintenance. Conversely, they found that UV radiation caused higher levels of DNA damage and death in the genetically-engineered zebrafish that were lacking melanocytes. After anesthetizing, the pigmented fish were flipped onto their backs, removing the protection provided by the melanocytes. Again, the unprotected hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells were rapidly damaged by UV. Thus, melanocytes protect hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells by producing an opaque physical shield blocking UV irradiation from reaching the stem cells. This melanocyte “umbrella” is present in other species of fish and even tadpoles before the cells migrate to the bone marrow during development. Bone completely encapsulates the stem cells, providing a very effective UV shield from all incident angles.
The two systems described are usually explained by evolutionary just-so stories and, as admitted by the primary authors, not by actual evidence. The two systems of stem cell marrow, however, are eloquently explained by good design, as shown by these authors’ convincing research methodology which produced consistent results. Their work is an excellent example of valid empirical work that illustrates how Darwinism offers no benefit to research.
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Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.