Cells and Repair 2001227
What makes the various cells in our bodies so
intelligent? Do they have the equivalent of a brain? How do certain
cells know when to repair damaged cells? Is it instinct?
Cells are not really "smart". They do not think, but they do
communicate-usually by chemical signals. For example, when you cut yourself
chemicals are released from the inside of the cells that are damaged and
those chemicals travel through the bloodstream. This signals other cells to
come to the area and help fight infection, or to repair the area by causing
the rapid division of cells in the area. This is just a small example-your
body's biology and chemistry is always watching out for you.
Cells certainly do seem talented, but saying they have intelligence or a
brain-like function is giving them too much credit. They have evolved, over
millions of years, proteins that respond to certain specific stimuli. Think
about the thermostat in your house. It responds to a specific stimulus, i.e.,
too hot or too cold, by sending a signal to the heater/air conditioner. Now
if a cell is damaged, bits of cellular material will be floating around that
aren't normally floating around. Some cellular proteins (enzymes) are always
present which have the ability to bind to these molecules. Binding causes the
enzymes to undergo a slight shape change, which changes them from an
"inactive" to an "active" state. By this I mean that the enzymes now can act
on some other cellular proteins and in doing so stimulate the repair process.
So it all happens using cellular proteins that are "mindlessly" responding to
specific stimuli, just like your thermostat.
Paul Mahoney, Ph.D.
Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives
Update: June 2012