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So What's Your Hurry

So What's Your Hurry?

It's clear to most of us that our bodies are made up of different tissues -- muscles, bones, nerves, intestines, liver, and skin and so on. Each of these tissues can be considered different kinds of cells living in distinct neighborhoods or communities. There are an estimated seventy-five trillion cells simultaneously working in concert in our bodies. The harmony of our human orchestra would be greatly disturbed if this was not the case. Interestingly many of these individual cells are dying at the same time. Perhaps a few thousand died in me while I wrote this blog. As you live your life over the next week, billions of new cells will emerge to replace those that died. As these new cells unfold, we still feel like our old familiar self.

Some of you may be surprised to learn that over seventy-five trillion copies of DNA are dispersed throughout our bodies at any one time. Modern day scientific folklore promulgates that each individual cell follows a master plan. All of our cells somehow see the forest through the trees because they each receive their orders from DNA, the supreme ruler. Humans tend to believe we are the ultimate in centralization, that we are the products of a carefully planned agenda. Not so fast people, do not let these scientific snake oil vendors fool you.

Yes, it's true. All of our cells contain the entire genome; however, each specialized cell only reads the DNA pertinent to its individual function. Muscle cells only read the portion of DNA unique to muscle cell function. Neighboring muscle cells help each individual cell stay on track. How does a muscle cell know that it needs to read the muscle cell portion of the DNA? That question is similar to asking, “How does an egg know how to develop into a baby bird instead of a baby snake.” It's the mystery of all life. Just because it's a mystery, doesn't mean it's not true. The truth is that each of us is a construction of segregated groups of human tissues working together in harmony to grow into uniquely different people. We ultimately live as distinctive communities and cities within our geographical area.

It's fascinating that a group of cells dedicates itself to forming and maintaining a portion of the skeleton, while yet another group dedicates itself to the preservation of our brain's gray matter. Each cell contributes to the whole, while having no awareness of the whole. Within each cellular neighborhood, local interactions occur under the influence of signal molecules that keep the group cohesive and in accord. Sometimes when stress and environmental conditions change, the neighborhood changes in its totality to accommodate the change.

Believe it or not, the entire birth and subsequent maturation of the body is a totally decentralized process. I envision disease as a loss of safe tissue neighborhoods and blighted communities. Cells mutate as a result of a number of factors, all interrelated but at the same time separate in their origins.

Because humans are absolutely complex organisms, small changes in a local part of our bodies can have devastating consequences in our overall global health. An occlusion of one small artery of our heart can end our life. Although we may not consider our health status as a random occurrence, natural random events play a dramatic role in destabilizing our local cellular neighborhoods. A frequentist statistician would tell you that rare occurrences happen; and that the best way to experience a rare occurrence would be to perform a function or an activity over and over again, perhaps tens of thousands of times.

In our human system of primitive binary cellular processes, we will eventually experience a rare, but significantly impactful, disturbance because each one of our unique cells performs the same individualized functions billions of times in our collective lifetime. Disease is rarely an isolated disturbance in our normal function; it is a global disturbance, initiated by a local disruption that spreads to surrounding neighborhoods which in turn become disturbed. When the disturbance reaches a critical mass, we succumb to the chaos. Disease is an uncanny exploitation of corruption from the bottom up, not the top down. Essentially, the meek will inherit the Earth.

The next time you wonder why physicians treat the symptoms of a disease, instead of the cause of the disease, remember that most doctors have a top-down worldview of human physiology. Treating from the bottom-up takes time; and it requires that patients be patient as they restore one neighborhood at a time.

So, what's your hurry anyway?

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 8:34 AM
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