First of:

@ds106dc #tdc1407 My response for Today’s #ds106 Daily Create is:3 Seconds of Science

Ok, yes I used that already this week, but I didn’t get to fully geek out last time so now I want to redeem myself.

This is all about taking things that seem ordinary, but making them extraordinary, and that is exactly what this is. What does it look like? A bunch of pictures right? And… well that’s exactly what they are. But the story they tell is so much more exciting than that.

Before we begin, here’s a biology lesson. Every organism is made up of cells. Yes, that means you, me, your dog, and even Kim Kardashian (she just has a lot more silicon than we do). These cells replicate, and make copies of themselves to let us grow (or you could go the silicon route) and survive. But these cells aren’t perfect. They make errors. Every cell has an identical copy of your DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in it that is a blueprint for your body. This tells the cell what to do, when to grow, how fast to grow, and how much to grow, and ultimately tells you how you look as well (unless you go the silicon route). But sometimes there are errors in this copying of your DNA. When this happens, things happen. I say things because there are three ultimate outcomes:

  1. Nothing. The error was as inconsequential as Shaq’s rapping career and nothing happens at all, life is good.
  2. Good. This is how evolution happens! Random errors occur, and maybe this error does something good! A series of completely random errors that ended up favorable is how everything led to what we are now!
  3. Bad. The cell can’t function, it starts to grow uncontrollably, all of the things that tell it to stop growing or slow down or stop multiplying shut down, and it turns to cancer. This happens sometimes.

So how do we stop this from happening? A process called apoptosis. This process is essentially programmed cell death. Cellular suicide. Your cell kills itself to save the organism. Now it tries other things of course, it doesn’t just go full Jonestown right away, but if it can’t fix the error then that’s what happens. It even cleans up after itself! The biggest advantage of this process is that it signals for other molecules so you don’t have just random dead cell bits floating around your bloodstream like gators in the NYC sewer line (which is super bad for your kidney by the way). Its essentially someone saying: I’m going to be the next Hitler (and not the “Hey! I’m on the internet and you offended me kind”), I’m going to kill myself AND make sure you don’t have a mess to clean up! That’s pretty darn considerate if I do say so myself (It’s ok, I’m Jewish)!

If that isn’t extraordinary on its own, I dont know what is!

Ok, so how does this video come into play?

Well these pictures show apoptosis happening in real time. So let’s stop and take a look at this real quick and show you what you are looking at.

  1. You are looking at Jurkat T-Lymphocytes. These are cancerous white blood cells taken from a 14 year old kid with the last name Jurkat. We are growing cells and looking at them from someone they are taken from over 40 years ago. What I find satisfying about this, is that I feel as if I am keeping someone alive in my lab, and using them to help better the world even 40 years after their death.
  2. The first picture is cells, something you cannot see with your naked eye. These things literally make up you.
  3. The second one is only cells with a healthy mitochondria. This means these are only the cells that are healthy and not undergoing this process (or just started).
  4. The fourth is only cells that show active enzymes during this process. This means that only cells that are undergoing this process are shown. These enzymes are essentially tearing the cell apart and they are supposed to be (like a wrecking ball).

Through modern science, what looks like a bunch of dots on a screen are actually one of the most commonly used and most important systems in your body, in real time.

I may have been feeling myself during this post, but that is pretty darn extraordinary.