Brain Versus Gonads
Even though the vast variety of protein pathways in the cell provides for the functions of life, merely having those pathways does not generate life. Life is dependent upon the precise coordination and regulation of the cell’s protein movements and pathways. The brain and supporting nervous system represent the regulatory mechanism that coordinate all of these many pathways that provide for life.
So . . . where is the cell’s brain? Well, contrary to what you probably know, it’s not in the genes. If you think back to high school or college biology, you probably remember that the cell’s largest organelle, the nucleus, is described as the control center or “brain” of the cell. Because it was presumed that genes control life and that the genes are housed within the nucleus, it was a no-brainer to assume that this organelle represented the cell’s brain. However, in light of the infamous nature of assumptions, the accuracy of this belief must be questioned.
Observations from experiments published 80 years ago challenge the assumption that the genes are the brains of the operation. When one removes the brain from a living individual — that individual dies. But if a nucleus is removed from a cell, a process called enucleation, the cell survives, and many enucleated cells can live for two or more months without their genes! In fact, enucleated cells will continue to function normally until they need to replace protein parts vital to their survival.
Genes are simply blueprints used to make protein parts. Enucleated cells eventually die, not due to an immediate absence of genes, but because they cannot replace their worn-out protein parts and, as a result, they inevitably begin to decay. While traditional thinking has taught us to believe that the nucleus is the cell’s brain, in truth, the nucleus is the functional equivalent of the cell’s gonads, its reproductive system.
This misrepresentation is understandable. Throughout history, science has predominantly been an “old boy’s club.” Because males reputedly think with their gonads, confusing the cell’s nucleus with its brain is, in the light of that bias, an understandable error.
So, if the genes are not the brain, what is? My research revealed that the cell’s brain is actually the cell membrane, the equivalent of its skin. Built into the membrane are protein switches that respond to the environmental signals by relaying their information to internal protein pathways. A different membrane switch exists for almost every environmental signal recognized by a cell. Some switches respond to estrogen, some to adrenaline, some to calcium, some to light waves, and so on.
Although there may be one hundred thousand switches in a cell’s membrane, we don’t have to study each one of them individually, because they all share the same basic structure and function.