Monday, February 21, 2011

Body breakdown II

For my little brother Michael and sister Grace.

The immune system works on it's ability to distinguish the differences between the foreign organisms trying to attack or enter the body. It first identifies
               "what are characteristic proteins or protein-linked components of this invading substance?"
Proteins matter to the immune system.
Once it identifies this important fact, two kinds of lymphocytes are provoked to respond.
One set of lymphocytes produce antibodies that directly attack those invading substances (this is called antibody-mediated immunity).
The other set of lymphocytes start making antibodies that they will direct to attack the invading substances (this is called cell-mediated immunity).

Where do these lymphocytes come from? Stem cells in the center of bones called "bone marrow." Stem cells in bone marrow are basically the factories that pump out hundreds and thousands and millions of the cells that make up your bodies defenses every day. They're the industrial part of your inside cities, where it's all work and no cool stores.

There are two types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. They can either be called B- or T- cells or B- or T- lymphocytes but lymphocyte and cell mean the same thing.
When a disease enters the body and one of the cells is attacked and devoured by a phagocyte, the information about what that devoured cell was is displayed on the phagocyte as an antigenic determinant, which is how the B- and T- cells know what to do next. The antigenic determinant provokes the appropriate immune response and says "this is how you should get those bad guys."

Cell-mediated immunity.
Say hello to an impressive, scary little defender cell called a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte.
Hello cytotoxic T-lymphocytes!
These muscular tough guys circulate through the blood vessels, then gather at the infection site. Acting fast, they interact directly with diseases or problem cells such as fungi, protozoa, cancer cells, bacteria-infected and virus infected cells. These little T-cells exert a "lethal hit" on cells and secrete substances into them that lead to cellular destruction.

They also have substances inside them called "lymphokines."
Say "hello lymphokines!"
Lymphokines attract phagocytes to the area and encourage them to perform phagocytosis (envelop and destroy) on fungi, protozoa, diseased and infected cells. Why are lymphokines important?
They help to rapidly relieve infection. They're your Supervisors of your body's defenses, getting the right microorganisms to go to the right places and making people are showing up for work on time.

With all of this activity going on, there are also your boring, lame and buzz-killing lymphocytes called "suppressor T-cells" that regulate and suppress the activity of the immune system so that it's not excessive. They come into the room and say "guys, guys, everyone calm down. The neighbors are complaining that the noise level is too high, so can we get things a little bit under control? Why is he on top of the bookcase? Sir, sir, please come down."

Now it gets interesting.

Antibody-mediated immunity.
When a B-cell sees (or is exposed to) an antigenic determinant (sign telling the immunity system WAKE UP! ALARM! ALARM! on the back of a phagocyte) the B-cell says "hey, okay! Alright! Move move move!" and starts producing plasma cells.
Plasma cells are antibodies (good guys) that are specific for antigens (bad guys). If the bad guys are good at pistol skills, the plasma cells create super talented pistol-shooting bad guys. If the bad guys (antigens) are good with swords, the plasma cells create good guys (antibodies) that are good with swords to beat the bad guys.
Other B-cells take notice of what's going on and think "hm. The bad guys are good with swords, so we need to remember that. Next time they try and come back we'll already be coded and ready to make way more sword-men to conquer them quicker."
That is how a vaccine works. Your body is introduced to the bad guys of chicken pox when you're young so that when you're old you're already stocked with plenty of good guys to handle any bad guy chicken poxes that come around.
Or if you go and get an MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, in the needle is only a little bit of each of those diseases. Your body says "hey! Those measles need us to fight them with these, those mumps need us to fight them with these, and those rubella virus cells need us to fight them with those." It's only a little bit of each virus that your body gets used to fighting, so if the virus ever comes back for real to your body, you can fight them off easily because you already have before.
That is what B-cells called "memory cells" do best.

So we're back to plasma cells. Your B-cells read the signs and go "heck yes" and start creating plasma cells. Those plasma cells specialize in antibodies. What do antibodies do? They're the good guys. They're the specific defenses against each and every single disease that comes to your body. They're protein-based and do all the dirty work that isn't done by other cells to make sure the disease-infected cells are completely destroyed. Sometimes antibodies are called immunoglobulins.

This is an immunoglobulin. Never mind all the confusing titles and terms for each section, what creature does it remind you of?
Look at it and try to imagine it's lying flat on the ground. The ground around it is all the white space, what kind of animal is it like?
A lobster or a crab. Where it says "antigen binding-site" up in the yellow area at the top, those could be the pincers, and the blue area could be the body and arms. These immunoglobulins shoot out of plasma and then go attack the antigens (infected cells that could hurt the body) and then attach to them at the end of their "arms" area. This is the place on the cell that knows exactly how to react to the bad cells because it has been told by the phagocyte's alarm system (or antigenic determinant).
When the antibody (immunoglobulin) reacts with the antigen (infected or bad cell) the two surfaces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. This ability is exquisitely accurate and accounts for the extreme specificity of antibody molecules.
The immunoglobulin cells in your body that protect you are told EXACTLY how to respond in a way that fits perfectly against the bad cells that are invading your body. It wouldn't work for them to just go out and fight; they have to be shown exactly how and what to do with the ends of their "arms", and then it works perfectly.

Psalms 139:1
1 You have searched me, LORD, 
   and you know me.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast. 
13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be. 

Body breakdown.

You are an evil parasite. You think "I really hate this guy, so I want to infect him with my deadly disease (insert disease of choice)" and so you do. You hop on a park bench and wait for that perfect moment.
Today is your lucky day. It's your day for a perfect moment.
He sit down, puts his hand on the back of the bench, then rubs his eye.
*SNAP!* You're in.

Instantly you think small thoughts and are absorbed by the mucous membrane tissue of the eye and soon you find yourself in the nearest open section of tissue getting set to infect it thoroughly and as you begin your devious work--a threat looms.

You have been seen by a macrophage, the Sentinel of the human body tissues. When macrophages don't live in tissues they're called "phagocytes." Your eyes glint in anger as you let out a roar of dismay, infuriated that your plans have been thwarted. Then without warning, the small figure of an antibody attaches itself to you and sounds the alarm.

The immune system of the human host you're invading is immediately activated. All is lost.
In just a matter of moments phagocytes (or macrophages) descend on you and begin their process to entirely eliminate you. The first phagocyte to reach you wastes no time: he attaches you to himself and immediately ingests you into a bubble-like organelle (tiny organism) called a phagosome.

Once you've been entirely soaked up by him, a lysosome joins him and says "here, you need this" then in a move that makes short work of you, shoots you full of enzymes. You are helpless as you are digested by a team of organisms that just joined together to become a phagolysosome in order to destroy you. That lysosome, where did he come from? The endoplasmic reticulum (a part of a cell) created him just for that purpose. To join alongside the phagocyte and help him destroy you, the evil foreign invasion forces of disease that doesn't belong.
Within minutes you are not only destroyed, but you're also no more than an afterthought as your microbial remains are eliminated from the tissue Sentinel in a process called egestion.

Not stopping here, the phagocyte alerts the rest of the body by sending out a warning signal through antigenic determinants, a display that is shown on the phagocyte like a bright flag to alert the entire immune system as if to say "wake up! We're being invaded!"

The next morning the human body has changed from the day before--it feels like he has a cold, his throat is sore, and his right eye burns warmly. That burning sensation in his eye is called inflammation: it activates the immune system, sets the body in motion to repair itself in that area, and encourages any phagocytes in the area to come and destroy any microorganisms present.

Even before that human body goes to the doctor's to find out that he has "pink eye" or conjunctivitis, the body is hard at work destroying any of the bacteria that could left in the area and protecting the eye from any harm.

A macrophage destroying a bacteria.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

That, right there.

In a CNN Money news article summarizing her research results on the "World's top business professors under 40" Andrea Carter quotes Justine Lelchuk, a second-year MBA candidate at Harvard business school and co-president of the school's Student Association: 

"A master business school professor," she says, "is someone who is a dynamic facilitator, clear communicator, active listener, passionate expert, provocative motivator, bridge between theory and practice, and just plain human." 

Maybe I never darken the classroom door of another business class, but I want every single one of those personality traits. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Single-celled Boats

While taking notes studying for my microbiology class, I came across something that struck me as particularly incredible.
Protozoa: belong in a grouping of eukaryotic unicellular heterotrophic protists, such as an amoeba or ciliate. They exist through aqueous environments and soil, occupying various trophic levels.

How about this. Protozoa consist of a single cell that spend their lives in a membrane and have no nucleus.
Heterotroph means...well, let's put it this way. 95% of all living organisms are heterotrophic. No more explanation necessary. They love living in watery areas as well as underground...and I am a huge fan of them.

There are four major ways that protozoa get around (called locomotion), and it is one of these that caught my attention and left me in awe of a very, very creative God.

Ciliary locomotion:

Cilia operate with a unilateral beat lying in a single plane.
(They are lying flat and one whole side moves at a time.)

As cilium moves backward it is almost rigid; upon recovery it becomes flexible and the tip appears to be dragged along the body of the organism.
(The little hairs on the sides of the organism row.)

Cilia either completely cover or are in bands or clumps, so they must be closely coordinated with the movements of all other cilia.
(The little hairs are so close together that to move at all they must move all together, otherwise no movement is possible.)

Coordination is achieved through metachronal rhythm in which a wave of simultaneously beating clumps of cilia moves from the anterior to the posterior end of the organism.
(Together in waves of movement identical to that of oars on a boat, the organism is propelled forward.)

In addition to avoiding interference between adjacent cilia, the metachronal wave also produces forward locomotion because there are always groups of cilia beating backward. 
(The metachronal wave doesn't just keep everything in timing so that the oars don't hit each other, it also keeps the organism moving forward.)

Because the plane of the ciliary beat is diagonal to the longitudinal axis of the body, ciliate organisms rotate during locomotion.
(The waves of motion travel against the direction of the beat so that during the effective stroke, the cilia are all spread out, making each individual stroke maximally effective.)
The propelling power is produced not by the individual strokes of each cilia, but by the backward migration of the whole wave, acting on the principle of the Archimedean endless screw. International Review of Cytology

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Isaiah 40:25 ""To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?" asks the Holy One."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Growing Need

As I follow what most Americans are calling "the events unfolding in the Middle East" or Egypt, its pretty incredible to try and understand the value and severity of what's going on. 
Most of us here in the United States live camel-free, unless you smoke. We buy our groceries in packages, talk politics every few years then vote or don't vote, but we watch our very fluid world change often. We watch films like "V for Vendetta" and fall in love with the hero/protagonist as he says lines like "a government should be afraid of it's people, not people afraid of their government" and we nod, its a true statement.
Winston Churchill said "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time." His point being mankind is not satisfied, not good, and there is no perfect or even close to perfect system. In Tunisia several weeks ago a man set himself on fire and died in protest of having to have a permit to sell his groceries on a cart in the street. He felt that the permit prices and need for one in the first place was oppression, so he killed himself and the world took notice. Several days later the same thing had happened a half-dozen times in Tunisia, Algeria Yemen, and had begun to catch on. Then without much warning at all, Egypt awakened. The people poured onto the streets shouting "ALLAHU ACKBAR" in numbers so great that the local police in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez soon gave up and abandoned their positions and left. 
The people who had been protesting the corruption of their government for the last thirty years, the economic recession that had caused food to become so expensive and the lack of honest law-upholding turned on their purpose viciously in the unavoidable rip-tide current of huge mobs. Mankind cannot escape from themselves, much like the worst thing that can happen to a gambler is that he wins or continues to win until he loses everything, then the same is for humanity and mobbing. 
The worst will always happen in a mob unless it is controlled because the value of human life is lost in the sheer numbers, and man is not naturally good, so when he is allowed to be himself free and unstoppable, he is apart from the law and no longer free in it, ruled by himself. The very things Egypt began protesting became themselves. In acts of aggression and independence from the government they looted police stations and stores. 
They broke curfew by the tens of thousands, stopped all production and demanded change. A week later the country is running out of food, an unavoidable point in the natural cycle of not working. The death toll is around two hundred and many, many people are hurting.
"As curfew kicks in, young men carry sticks, swords, machetes, meat cleavers, axes -- anything they can find to arm themselves."
The world needs Jesus.

Luke 22:44 "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" 

1 Timothy 2:1-4 "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thankgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Muslim Brotherhood

The Tech Offensive

Lack of Food

Taking Up Household Weapons