Monday, September 22, 2003

Cell Signaling: Looking for a Good Time?

Cell signalling occurs along three paths:

Endocrine--excreting hormones that travel long distances to communicate with their target cells. Kind of like phone sex.

Paracrine--communication and stimulation of adjacent cells. Intercourse, of course.

Autocrine--self-stimulation. 'Nuff said.

Who knew cell biology could be so kinky?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Life and Death. And Sciatica.

Life and death. Birth and death. Sacred and Profane. Serious and Absurd.

From cytoskeleton and osmolality, we were reminded of the tragedy of 9/11 (this very Tuesday two years ago). Learning about actin filaments led to clinical correlations with listeria, an amazing bacteria that hijacks the actin polymerization tools of cells to create actin rockets that zoom around and destroy the organism. Not entirely unlike a hijacked plane destroyed the WTC. From microscopic to macroscopic and back again.

Then we learned that listeria can be found in unpasteurized milk and dairy products. So I called Melissa to tell her (remember when the 10-year-old me wrote her a letter urging her to stop drinking soda and start drinking more milk so as not to get osteoporosis down the road? Some things never change...) about my findings, because Melissa now has more than her own bones to worry about. She is now 31 weeks pregnant with a precious baby girl! After getting off the phone with Melissa, Dorothy told me that a father was killed in the suicide bombing today in Jerusalem; a father there to attend the wedding of his daughter, who was also killed. And just today I told some classmates about *my* father, and they were intrigued and touched, as usual. I couldn't tell them the whole story, though, because we had these conferences to talk about death and dying. Coincidence? Or just the thread of connection among all life, experience, humanity...

In lab today we ripped apart the shoulder. Lower down, dug through slabs of globby yellow fat, then reflected the gluteal muscles to expose that magnificent cord of shiny white axon bundles, the sciatic nerve.

I'm afraid I may be getting numb to all of this. Impatient. But to what exactly? Numb to life? Numb to death? Numb to the stories that make up life and death?