Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hanging by a Thread & Reaching 300

It seems we are all hanging by a thread, a thread of nanotubes that allow cells to communicate with one another.

"Mammalian cells could also be doing the same.Even more speculative is the idea that the development of organs could be influenced by tunnelling nanotubes. It is not well understood how organs "know" how big they should get, or the exact shape to take. "These are all open questions," says Gerdes. He speculates that if the cells in a given organ were connected by nanotubes, then
these connections could help establish a feedback mechanism that provides the necessary information for the organ to grow to the right size and shape."

Interestingly enough, these nanotubes were discovered accidentally, something akin to how penicillin was discovered.

"HAD Amin Rustom not messed up, he would not have stumbled upon one of the biggest discoveries in biology of recent times. It all began in 2000, when he saw something strange under his microscope. A very long, thin tube had formed between two of the rat cells that he was studying. It looked like nothing he had ever seen before.

His supervisor, Hans-Hermann Gerdes, asked him to repeat the experiment. Rustom did, and saw nothing unusual. When Gerdes grilled him, Rustom admitted that the first time around he had not followed the standard protocol of swapping the liquid in which the cells were growing between observations. Gerdes made him redo the experiment, mistakes and all, and there they were again: long, delicate connections between cells. This was something new - a previously unknown way in which animal cells can communicate with each other."

"Originally noticed by a French medical student, Ernest Duchesne, in 1896. Penicillin was re-discovered by bacteriologist Alexander Fleming working at St. Mary's Hospital in London in 1928. He observed that a plate culture of Staphylococcus had been contaminated by a blue-green mold and that colonies of bacteria adjacent to the mold were being dissolved. Curious, Alexander Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. Naming the substance penicillin, Dr. Fleming in 1929 published the results of his investigations, noting that his discovery might have therapeutic value if it could be produced in quantity"

Believe it or not, BRT has posted it's 300th article, not bad for a blog started over a few beers with two of my best friends.
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