Dancing in a cell
Research uncovers evidence of intelligent design in cell movements
Cell biologists are marveling at what looks like a well-choreographed dance among the microscopic structures housed within living cells. Thirty years ago, scientists believed this cellular tango was incidental. But now, more advanced imaging techniques reveal this rhythmic motion serves a vital purpose that “shouts design,” Ann Gauger, a biologist and researcher at the Biologic Institute, told me.
Scientists once thought the structures within cells, called organelles, were isolated and independent from one another, each performing its own special function. But a report published on March 11 in Nature on technological advances in microscopy have given biologists a look into the highly complex activity within cells. Organelles slide together, bind for a short time, separate, and then reconnect to exchange calcium, hydrogen peroxide, sugars, and other compounds necessary to keep the cell healthy. They also facilitate the transfer of cholesterol and other fatty molecules that would otherwise form beads and plug up the liquid cytoplasm in the cell. The organelles can even reroute the transportation system and come in through the back door if another passage gets plugged. But if those links break, the resulting cellular dysfunction can lead to cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other disorders.
Gökhan Hotamisligil, a metabolic disease researcher at Harvard University, likened the process to a dynamic flamenco performance. Gia Voeltz, a University of Colorado cell biologist, said when she showed videos of this cellular motion to colleagues, they were in awe that everything inside the cell was “so integrated and beautiful.”
Researchers now know that these dances occur everywhere within the cell. Almost every type of organelle comes into close communication with every other type. The discovery shows that an organelle cannot function in isolation, said Maya Schuldiner, a Weizmann Institute biologist.
“This implies that all the required organelles … must have originated at the same time,” wrote Brian Thomas, an Institute for Creation Research biochemist.
Laura Lackner, a cell biologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., told Nature, “It really seems like this is some sort of functional hub that the cell has created.”
But cells don’t create anything, Thomas noted, pointing out that that one can align pieces of a car—pistons, spark plugs, radiator, and all engine parts—in the right place but, unless someone puts them together, all you have is scrap metal. “Nobody has seen a cell create its own parts any more than a car engine does,” he said. “These partnering dances in cells demand supernatural beginnings.”
The recent archaeological discovery of a fortified wall in southern Israel shows the accuracy of the Biblical story that David ruled a powerful kingdom in the 10th century B.C. It also reignites ongoing controversy among those who reject the idea that such a kingdom ever existed, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Skeptics of the Biblical narrative point to a lack of archaeological evidence that David and his son Solomon ruled over a united kingdom in Israel. If such a kingdom existed, they say, it wasn’t the mighty empire portrayed by the Bible. They also claim the kingdom of Judah in southern Israel only began to wield any influence at all in the ninth century B.C.
The Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles describes Lachish, the site where archaeologists found the wall, as one of the cities fortified by Solomon’s son King Rehoboam, who ruled Judah in roughly the late 10th century B.C. The discovery bolsters the arguments that Rehoboam fortified the city and that a united and powerful kingdom under David and Solomon was already established by the time of his reign. Carbon dating of olive pits unearthed at the wall dates it to exactly Rehoboam’s time.
“We have discovered that Lachish was a fortified city and that it was established around the year 920 B.C.E.,” Yossi Garfinkel, head of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, told Haaretz. —J.B.
New DNA extraction and sequencing technology made it possible for researchers to analyze the genetic makeup of nine 13th century soldiers in the Crusader armies crudely buried in a pit in Lebanon.
The Crusades were waged roughly between 1095 and 1291 by Christians endeavoring to take back Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim control. The study, published on April 18 in The American Journal of Human Genetics, indicates the Crusaders included Europeans, people of the Near East, and individuals of mixed ethnicity. Little trace of their genetic material remains in modern day Lebanon, indicating the Crusaders probably did not stay in the country very long.
This study serves as an example, the researchers said, of how the new ability to extract and sequence genetic material, even in warm climates where DNA tends to degrade rapidly, can enhance our understanding of history. —J.B.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April announced plans to get rid of a decades-old rule that says frozen cherry pies must contain 25 percent cherries by weight and no more than 15 percent of the cherries can be blemished. The FDA also plans to revoke current standards for French dressing, which require no less than 35 percent by weight of vegetable oil and no more than 25 percent by weight of citric or malic acid. No such requirements govern other fruit pies or dressings. Food manufacturing companies are cheering the deregulation, saying the arcane rules prevent innovation and prompt lawsuits.
The FDA also plans to look at milk, which, according to federal regulations, must be a dairy product. The dairy industry wants a crackdown on soy, rice, and almond drinks that manufacturers refer to as “milk.” —J.B.
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