Leaving off from Friday about finding out about the real secret of life…
In a cell, these moving parts are molecules called proteins. Proteins are physical building blocks that assemble themselves and interact to generate the cell’s behaviors and functions. Each protein has a unique structure and size; in fact, there are over 150,000 different protein parts. While man-made machines can be quite complex, human mechanical technologies pale in comparison to the sophisticated technology within our cells.
Assemblies of protein gears that provide specific biological functions are collectively called pathways. A respiratory pathway represents an assembly of protein gears responsible for breathing. Similarly, a digestive pathway is a group of protein molecules that interact to digest food. A muscle contraction pathway consists of proteins whose interactions produce the body’s movements.
New-Edge Biology Conclusion #1
Proteins provide the structure and function of biological organisms.
The Motor: The motor represents the force that puts the protein gears in motion.
The motor is necessary because the primary characteristic of life is movement. In fact, if the proteins in your body stop moving, you’re well on the way to becoming a cadaver. Therefore, life derives from the forces that put protein molecules into motion and, thus, generate behavior.
The Switch: The switch is the mechanism that tells the motor to put the protein gears into motion.
The switch is necessary because life requires precise integration and coordination of cellular behaviors. Think of the cell’s functions-respiration, digestion, excretion, and so on-as instruments in an orchestra. Without a conductor, orchestras would produce a cacophony. In living organisms, the switches that reside in the cell’s membrane represent a conductor that harmoniously controls and regulates the cell’s various functional systems.
The Gauge: The gauge represents the body’s method for accurately monitoring the system’s physiological functions.
Biological gauges are essential to maintain life. Think of the gauges in your body as being like the gauges in your automobile. Even though gauges reside on the dashboard, which is your driving command center, the gauges monitor functions in the engine as well as throughout the vehicle. Just as your automobile’s gauges report oil and fuel levels, battery amperage, and speed, so the body also gives you feedback to regulate behavior and sustain your life. But unlike mechanical gauges with pointing needles or LED readouts, biological gauges convey information via sensation.
These sensations originate from by-product chemicals that cells create in the process of carrying out normal functions. These chemicals are released into the environment within our bodies. Specialized cells in the nervous system use membrane switches, equipped to recognize these chemical markers, to monitor the concentration of specific by-products. When these nerve cells are activated, they translate the by-product’s signal into sensations that our consciousness experiences as feelings, emotions, or symptoms. To fight an infection, for example, activated immune cells release chemical messengers, such as interleukin 1, into the blood. When interleukin 1 molecules are recognized by specific membrane receptors on blood vessel cells in the brain, these cells forward the signal molecule prostaglandin E2 into the brain. Prostaglandin E2 activates the fever pathway and simultaneously producing symptoms we sense as elevated temperature and shivering.
One of the basic problems with our health care system today is that the medical industry gauges success by how well it relieves symptoms. Doctors prescribe pills to eliminate pain, reduce swelling, or lower fever. However, drugging our symptoms can be as destructive as putting masking tape over our car’s gauges. It does not solve the problem; it helps us ignore it-until the vehicle breaks down.
Likewise, drugging the cells and masking symptoms ignores signals bombarding our bodies from the external environment.