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efficiency of body cells

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efficiency of body cells

Postby parth88 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:31 pm

A friend of mine says he has found a theory of life which suggests that a decent percentage of cells in a multi-cellular organism doesn't contribute to the organism as a whole and merely exists eating away its resources. Generally speaking, not all cells of type x supposed to do some fucntion y for the body do it. For example not all well-developed cells of the islets-of-langerhans synthesise insulin, not all liver cells secrete bile etc etc I know nothing worthy of mentioning about biology but thought you guys could say if he is right. Thanks.
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Postby biohazard » Wed Aug 12, 2009 6:52 pm

There certainly are cells that do nothing useful in the body (after all, there's billions of them) - this could be due to simple mutation in some essential gene, after which the cell cannot secrete some essential protein (like insulin for example) but is otherwise viable.

However, I haven't heard that there'd be so many of those cells that one could use the words "a decent percentage" - I believe the amount of these cells would be measured in fractions of permilles rather than in percents. The metabolic load of such rogue cells would be quite big, so I'd assume evolution has had time to find ways for our bodies to prevent the accumulation of these cells. A bit like our body kills most cells that are about to turn cancerous.

That being said, I must admit that this is an interesting theory, because our genome certainly contains a whole lot of genetic material that has no apparent use, and still it adds to our metabolic load each time a cell divides. I think I have to study this phenomenom more and return to our topic bit later!
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Postby MrMistery » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:26 pm

well never forget that we do have a lot of backups: for example one kidney is all you need to function perfectly normally. Evolution favored having two in case something happens to one of them, basically.
"As a biologist, I firmly believe that when you're dead, you're dead. Except for what you live behind in history. That's the only afterlife" - J. Craig Venter
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Re: efficiency of body cells

Postby parth88 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:29 am

That being said, I must admit that this is an interesting theory, because our genome certainly contains a whole lot of genetic material that has no apparent use, and still it adds to our metabolic load each time a cell divides. I think I have to study this phenomenom more and return to our topic bit later!

After speaking with him about this for quite a lot, i think he'd reply your question this way- "Life is one F****** freak" :D
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Re:

Postby biohazard » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:50 am

MrMistery wrote:well never forget that we do have a lot of backups: for example one kidney is all you need to function perfectly normally. Evolution favored having two in case something happens to one of them, basically.


Hmmh... that is very much true, but I was more like thinking whether we have completely useless cells (kind of parasites if you will) inside our bodies. The "backup" cells at least function or ar capable of functioning as intended, but could there be some kind of rogue cells as well? Cancer is of course one obvious scenario of this, but is there something that does not cause any visible symptoms and couldn't be measured with current methods?
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Re: Re:

Postby parth88 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:18 am

biohazard wrote: The "backup" cells at least function or ar capable of functioning as intended, but could there be some kind of rogue cells as well? Cancer is of course one obvious scenario of this, but is there something that does not cause any visible symptoms and couldn't be measured with current methods?

You said they exist. Now you are questioning it? :o
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Re: Re:

Postby biohazard » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:04 am

parth88 wrote: You said they exist. Now you are questioning it? :o


Yes, I said they exist and I also said that their numbers were likely be measured in fractions of permilles, which means I think there are very few of these cells (I called them rogue cells). I am questioning the numbers part - in order for them to have any kind of practical impact there'd need to be a fair number of such cells, and I doubt there are that many of them. But I'm not sure of this. What I am pretty sure of, though, is that there are some such cells, because an odd point mutation alone can generate a cell that has lost its primary function but not its ability to live and consume energy and resources. The effect of this is probably next to non-existent, however, because the cell division limiting "Hayflick limit" would ensure that these cells would eventually stop dividing and die off.

And with the "lack of visible symptoms" part I meant that could there be rogue cells that waste energy and resources so much that the organism (i.e. the human body) would suffer during a long time span, even though we cannot detect anything being wrong at any single time point. This could mean something like wasting or increased infection rates or similar.
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Re: Re:

Postby parth88 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:31 am

biohazard wrote:Yes, I said they exist and I also said that their numbers were likely be measured in fractions of permilles, which means I think there are very few of these cells (I called them rogue cells). I am questioning the numbers part

Ya. The numbers should be much less than the normal ones.

And with the "lack of visible symptoms" part I meant that could there be rogue cells that waste energy and resources so much that the organism (i.e. the human body) would suffer during a long time span, even though we cannot detect anything being wrong at any single time point. This could mean something like wasting or increased infection rates or similar.

When their number is less, i don't think they'll make for a significant loss of energy from the body. The system as a whole can manage given that there is a fat chance that the offsprings of a particular rogue cell can perform well for the body.
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