immortality (ኢመዋቲነት) and other curious associations, many of which only make sense in the writer’s head

Molecular Biology of the Cell, Alberts et al is that shit. Excellent text and figures –what more could this student of the life sciences ask for in a book? Who would have imagined that the inside of a sperm’s tail could be this ornate?


The authors are chill enough to do back cover designs inspired by Beatles albums:

alberts 2 alberts

It is the required reading for one of the courses that I am taking. The new edition is coming out on December 1st.  I am not excited or anything. Just transmitting info. Even the old edition is a lifetime reading.

If me and my imaginary scientific chums ever get to write a half-decent book, probably pop science, this is roughly what the back cover is going to look like:

how i got over

Reading Alberts’ makes one wax philosophical. For instance, on the beginning of chapter 2 it says that cancer cell break from the norm of all cells for one. Every other (somatic) cell in the body of an organism is bound to die except for the germ cells, i.e., egg and sperm, which survive in the form of one’s offspring (የኔን germ cells ነገርስ እኔንጃ!) The life mission of every other cell is thrusting (no pun intended) their representatives to the next generation with their own sacrifice. Most cancerous cells are rogue somatic cells which do not want to abide by this rule. They are brazen enough to ask themselves: “why can’t we, just like them germ cells, go on?” Cancerous cells get their way, almost. Put in a lab dish and provided for, most of them divide endlessly. This means that they are endowed with immortality, a perk that used to be enjoyed by germ cells only. However, unlike germ cells, they tend to drag themselves and the organism into an early end in many cases. Their immortality does not make it out of the petri dish to populate the world.

[I have in my hit list The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Deals with harnessing of the cancer cell immortality for the greater human good and the ethical issues involved.]

Now to the philosophizing

Cancer cells are jealous of the immortality of germ cells. They try to become immortal themselves at the cost of possible death to the organism. The risk of coming down with cancer increases with age and it is more likely that people will have left behind offspring by then. The sinister plan of cancerous cells would be fully realized in the person who dies of cancer taking unused germ cells with him/her.

The sinister plan

“Crabs in a bucket” is an expression of a preference for collective demise over individual triumph, much like the behavior exhibited by cancerous cells. The individual triumph here being that of the germ cells. I find it interesting that the name “cancer” stems from the Greek word for “crab.” There are several explanations as to why Hippocrates chose to call the scourge by this name. But I wonder, if the inclusion among those explanations of the crab mentality of cancerous cells would make the naming more apt.

Ooooook, moving on.

I also find it interesting that red blood cells stick to one of the tenets of drug dealing. They don’t get high on their own supply. They transport but do not use oxygen:

They get their energy in an oxygen-independent manner. Red blood cells also have got to be the most ascetic of cells. They are the only cells that do not consume fatty acids ቅባትነት ያለው ምግብ:: A claim in favor of the brain’s asceticism would fall short on two respects. One, the brain gorges on the lion’s share of our body’s glucose supply under normal conditions. ሆዳም! And two, even if the brain does not directly consume fatty acids, when shit gets deep (as in times of extreme starvation when glucose becomes very scarce) the liver will cut up the fatty acids and sneak them across the border of the blood brain barrier for the brain to eat. አልሸሹም ዞር አሉ:: አጭበርባሪ!!

Further proof of the righteousness of the red blood cells: the protoporphyrin structure. Protoporphyrins are molecules responsible for the color in stuff ranging from blood (via the “red” in red blood cells) and leaves all the way to piss and shit. Can you spot the cross in the structure?


Next time

Which humble molecule is behind the lewd lyrics of this song?



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. getere
    Nov 10, 2014 @ 17:24:37

    Ha! Biological immortality. The organism itself will die but the cell lives on.

    Is the answer to your question Oxytocin by any chance?

    I see the cross


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