Sunday, September 07, 2008

Modularity

Nature is economical. For example, Red, Green & Blue (the three primary/additive colors - light) generate all the colors of the rainbow in TVs, projectors & computer displays while Cyan, Magenta & Yellow (three subtractive colors - ink/paint) do the same thing on paper, canvas or anything else that reflects color. (Black is added to the mix as subtractive colors cannot interact with each other as precisely as additive i.e. CYMK/4 Color Process Color Model.)

In additive color models such as RGB, white is the “additive” combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is just the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks.

This kind of elegant economy is also expressed in chemistry with the Periodic Table of Elements, a brilliant concept invented by Dmitry I. Mendeleyev in 1869 to show how the elements relate to one another.

In viewing how the elements work as a system, researchers are now questioning if 68 molecules hold the key to all disease, a finding, if found to be true, could be the breakthrough scientists have been looking for since the beginning of time.

Reviewing findings from multiple disciplines, Jamey Marth, Ph.D., UC San Diego Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, realized that only 68 molecular building blocks are used to construct these four fundamental components of cells: the nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), proteins, glycans and lipids. His work, which illustrates the primary composition of all cells, is published in the September issue of Nature Cell Biology.

Like the periodic table of elements, first published in 1869 by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, is to chemistry, Marth’s visual metaphor offers a new framework for biologists.

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