Friday, February 24, 2012

Inner Life of the Cell

I never get tired of watching this computer animation put out by Harvard of a few of the molecular processes occurring inside our cells. The video opens with blood cells streaming through a capillary and then a single leucocyte (white blood cell) is picked out and explored.

The question that comes to mind as I watch it is where are the instructions which tell all those proteins where to go and when to do it? What is it that coordinates all this activity so that everything happens at the right time and at the right place? Evidently, it's not DNA because DNA is one of the molecules whose activities need to be regulated and coordinated. The information is currently thought to be hard-wired into the architecture of the cell, the epigenome, but how it works and how such an arrangement could have evolved by unguided forces is still a mystery.

If you haven't seen it before I think you'll find it all pretty amazing, especially the motor protein kinesin which carries vacuoles around the cell along the microtubule superhighway. It requires numerous proteins interacting with the kinesin to cause it to move its "foot" forward and to release the trailing foot, and it manages twenty such steps every second.
It's even more astonishing to consider that the complexity, coordination, choreography, and timing depicted in the video is a tiny fraction of what actually occurs every second of every day of the life of each of the trillions of cells that make up our bodies.