23 February, 2007


Trouble was afoot in the sticky wastelands of the cytosol. The plasma membrane sky was turbulent overhead, sphingomyelin rafts swirling faster than normal as ear-splitting explosions rattled down the signal transduction cascades, amplifying as they arced off towards to distant mass hovering on the horizon. Something wasn't right there, either. The nucleus had been hurt badly in the last infection. It's latticed double envelope still bore the oxidative scars of the inflammatory reaction, the translocons feebly trying to properly refold with half of their functional domains blasted away. The mitochondria were rumbling, louder than normal, but perhaps they only seemed the louder because the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi stacks were uncharacteristically quiet.

It was dark. Almost all the ATP had been hydrolyzed in the Inflammation, and now the mitochondria weren't producing any more--glucose and lipid transport had all but ceased. Even though they were still rumbling away...

This city was in trouble, and it knew it. The nation's dark Bim messengers were gathering quickly, clustering in ominous clouds with their Smacs while the wounded Bcl-ws could only drift aimlessly amid the sticky desert, observing.

Another explosion rattled down the signal transduction cascades, and with it phospolipid translocases began to fall in slow-motion, plunging into the boiling recesses of the peroxisomes. But this explosion didn't head towards the beaten nucleus; instead it flashed right into the hovering Bim/Smac clouds. A critical threshold had been reached...

The gloomy flocks rapidly dispersed and swarmed the mitochondria, diving into their wrinkled surfaces and rending their membranes. The mitochondrial rumbling rose in pitch, becoming a tortured kind of scream as the oxidative hellions broke loose of their matrix prison. Capsase and cytochome c erupted into the cell, colliding chaotically with everything else inside the cell, shattering the fragile secondary structures and motifs with their destructive oxidations.

The city was awash with the death-cries of the wounded. The nucleus gradually imploded, caving inwards and collapsing into the flailing centrioles and endoplasmic reticulum. The integral proteins of the plasma membrane sky plummeted further downward, rending the sticky desert with their cries as massive holes opened up in the sky and neighboring cities began to suck up the rubble, even before the city had been completely destroyed.

Within minutes, it was all over. Everything was gone, and it was as though the city had never existed in the first place...

19 February, 2007

Endocrine Stuff

While pondering a post up at Alternet about how widespread endocrine disruptors are in modern society, I wrote the following in response:

Humans are, more or less, nothing more than tottering sacks of chemicals in the first place, so it is only natural that we would seek to augment the messiness of our own chemical nature with chemicals of our own making.

But in the meantime, take some more chemicals!

Are you concerned that your little boy is too full of antiandrogenic chemicals to become virilized to the full extent that he otherwise would? Then shoot the kid up with some extra testosterone (warning: acne, aggressiveness, shrinking testicles), aromatase inhibitor (warning: not guaranteed to work), or luteinizing hormone (warning: may exacerbate effect)!

Think that your breasts haven't developed to their fullest capacity? Then shoot up some human chorionic gonadotropin (warning: may induce nausea), prolactin (warning: may stimulate lactation in addition to breast growth), or oxytocin (warning: addictive)!

Do you suspect that your metabolism is too slow? Then take some extra thyroxine (warning: may cause eyes to bulge out, irritability, shakiness, persistent feeling of cold, and trouble sleeping)!

Do you feel fat? Then perhaps some extra glucagon (warning: may mimic and/or cause diabetes) is right for you! Shed those pounds away as the breakdown of glycogen, lipids, and proteins is stimulated and converted to energy!

17 February, 2007

Multicellularity and Cytoskeleton

It was a curious city, to be sure. No one knew quite why, but for some arcane reason the entire city had been built upon wheels and stilts. To be sure, this city-wide mobility had its advantages, as it could always migrate with the weather and in search of food. The only problem with this design was that the designers hadn't had any clue as to how to keep a city from wobbling and shaking and to keep all the parts staying in place in the same place all the time. And as a result, a good many of the townsfolk of this city spent most of their time running around from one part of the city to another, building ladders and struts and wheels where needed and disassembling them where they were no longer needed. On top of this, a good 2/3 of the city was constantly occupied with throwing things over the city walls and hauling other stuff in. As such, the entire city was in a continual state of rushing movement, although it was also peaceful.

So the city rolled along across the landscape with its attendant army of scaffold engineers. Often the watchguards would see something on the horizon and yell back to the entire town that food was near. And the cry of food would travel on down the chain of communication until even the scaffolders heard. And they'd turn the entire city around, and shamble off in the direction of food.

This arrangement of a moving city was all good and well until one day the moving city ran into another city on wheels. Suddenly there was competition, as more and more of the ground-dwellers up and built themselves rolling cities. Soon the field grew so crowded that some of the cities began to band together and pool their cities, although they kept their individual walls intact. The newer, bigger cities were more efficient, although subject to frequent subterfuge by single cities. Nonetheless, they prospered and grew larger and larger as more multi-cities fused together and began to stretch farther than any of the inhabitants had dared to dream. However, the sprawl had a limit as to the benefits it offered every city. Soon, a trade-off between size and efficiency had to be made, and so each city began to specialize.

Eventually this led to the emergence of nations, and since then the world has never been the same.

15 February, 2007

Clathrin-Coated Vesicle Formation

Once there was a nice neighborhood, it had abundant nutrients and metabolites, and all was well.

That is, until one ominous day something happened outside of the neighborhood wall. That day a signal slammed into the wall and caused one of the wall's embedded signal detectors to start blinking ominously.

And then it happened again, and again.

And soon there was a whole row of ominously blinking signal detectors, screaming to the inhabitants of the quiet neighborhood: "HEY! SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE!", and of course the inhabitants quickly sat up and took notice. So they sent their clathrin pets to investigate the disturbance, and they quickly removed that portion of the wall, and packed it up nicely so that none of the disturbance could leak out and disturb the otherwise undisturbed neighborhood.

The wall quietly sealed behind the clathrin pets as they clung to the blinking signal detectors and fetched them for their owners.

Once inside the neighborhood, the pets, being forgetful, as is their wont, quickly became distracted by other shiny things and dropped the package and left it up to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. They gathered around and thoughtfully thought about what to do, and then some of the inhabitants realized that they had equipment was of the right configuration of deal with the disturbance, so they quickly hauled it off to their neighborhoods and took care of it.

And then the neighborhood lived quietly ever after...

That is, until the next time.