Quote: Cell Factory

first_imgFrom CalTech Engineering & Science (LXIX:2, August 2006), “Cellular CAT Scans” by Douglas L. Smith, an article about electron cryotomography imaging of cellular components.  Smith does not mention evolution.  His opening paragraph is reminiscent of Darwin’s Black Box:A cell isn’t merely a bag of enzymes sloshing around in a thick soup of cytoplasm.  According to Assistant Professor of Biology Grant Jensen, it’s more like a multistory factory—a set of interwoven production lines complete with conveyor belts, forklifts, and steel I-beams to hold up the roof.  Or, if you prefer, the world’s most elaborate Rube Goldberg contraption.  The cell’s cogs and camshafts, springs and motors, girders and sheet metal (or, in the Rube Goldberg case, gloved hands on sticks, precariously balanced bathtubs, and spring-loaded mallets) are protein molecules.  Protein machines conduct the cell’s metabolic business; protein motors make muscles contract, amoebas crawl, and paramecia swim.  When a cell is preparing to divide, protein diazo machines make a duplicate set of the genetic blueprints, and then protein winches and cables pull the two copies to opposite ends of the cell.  Shells of interlocking proteins armor-plate viruses, protein trusswork gives cells their shape, and protein stickers on the protein girders tell the cell which end is front.  Jensen’s research group wants to photograph each rod, flywheel, and bearing and work out its mechanical interactions with its fellows, in terms as solid as a cast titanium sprocket.  As Jensen puts it, “Ultimately, of course, we want to understand how things work at an atomic level—a proton goes here and it causes this atom to move over there, which causes that atom to move over here, and the sum of it all is that the cell swims, or eats, or reproduces itself.”(Visited 5 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img

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