Saturday, July 21, 2007

What suicide really is...

I must admit that there has never been anyone close to me who has actually committed suicide, but the concept has fascinated me. No, I am not talking about gory scenes in abandoned rooms so much as I am thinking of certain individuals who had so much going for them but they ended up squandering their gifts. This more protracted form of suicide is pervasive in our day and age, and is something from which one should always run. Of course, there are also the famous people who have committed suicide and the public is well aware of them, whose deaths generally sadden and frustrate the world.

Last night I came across such a jaw-dropping quote on this matter from G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy that I have to cite it in full. Read on, but please be ready for some serious analysis of this world:

....Grave moderns told us that we must not even say "poor fellow", of a man who had blown his brains out, since he was an enviable person, and had only blown them out because of their exceptional excellence. Mr. William Archer even suggested that in the golden age there would be penny-in-the-slot machines, by which a man could kill himself for a penny. In all this I found myself utterly hostile to many who called themselves liberal and humane. Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take and interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot by bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom is death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer's suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man's crime is different from other crimes-for it makes even crimes impossible.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How a Kinase Kills

Dead bodies are strewn across hospitals, and why?

Some philosophers attribute this to God's wrath for our first parents' choice of eating forbidden fruit.

Others might call this the harsh reality of a universe without plan or purpose.

Other hybrids of these extremes exist.

But that is neither here nor there to this blog. What we want to know is the how of death, on a molecular level. This may sound like chest-pounding propaganda, but my first exposé will be about the set of molecules that interested me during my Ph.D. studies.

Browsing the most recent contents of Nature, Science, and Cell, I realized that a new discovery has been made in that field. Call it coincidental, but I am back in my old stomping grounds, reading about my former favorite molecule, Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase.

So what is PI3K, and why should you care?

Like all kinases, PI3K's job is to add a phosphate molecule to some other molecule. As the name implies, PI3K puts a phosphate on the number 3 position of phosphoinositides.

What is a phosphoinositide, and why should you care?

It's a lipid--think about grease; no, not that tawdry musical with John Travolta, or McDonald's. We're talking about cells here, and lipids are found predominantly in the membranes of cells.

Ok--so phosphate molecules are being placed on lipids that are on the membranes of cells. Why should you care?

Physically speaking, YOU don't care, but some molecules do. For, you see, phosphate molecules are highly charged, and you know what people say about true love. Just as the air can be charged with romance, a phosphate's charge can attract new "mates" to the membrane of a cell. What does that do, and why should you care?

This photo is out of date, but I drew it for a publication, and I can't resist including it here. In this circumstances, PI3K is composed of two subunits, labeled as p85 and p110. But you should get the picture---many molecules are drawn to the membrane for a molecular conversation. Overall, that conversation has a pretty uniform message--grow, reproduce, and SURVIVE!

In this case, T cells receive messages through their receptors for foreign molecules, and one chief carrier pigeon is our friend, Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase, which makes those little plus signs (that signify the phosphorylated lipids), which starts the conversation between many molecules whose names are immaterial to this discussion. But again, the message is important---cells are told to grow, divide, and survive.

Now, if we think about what is so bad about growing, reproducing and surviving, our thoughts may turn to apocalyptic fears of the world's sustainability, but again, we are talking about cells and organisms.

The real problem behind too much growth and reproduction on an organismal level is, of course, cancer.

That word, which may be more stigma than understanding to some of my readers, is simply uncontrolled growth of cells. As scientists began looking for mutations in genes that were common to cancer patients, it was a beautiful but tragic fact that molecules related to PI3K were often found to be the culprits at hand in many instances of cancer. This image shows a breast cancer cell-dividing rapidly, which in this particular cancer, has over a 50% chance of being mutated in the PI3K pathway.

In my next installment, I will try to explain what the new findings are, and why they are interesting.
Hopefully this introduction will be enough to chew on for now. But the method to the madness is hopefully clear now.

Until then, I remain as always, your obedient servant.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ave israel??

How can Revelation 12 not be about Mary? Help me out, here...

Read it for yourself:
The Woman and the Dragon

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers [1] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood [2] on the sand of the sea.

Protestants generally vary between saying this is about either Israel, the Church, or both. But Roman Catholics see this as being Mary, the Mother of our Lord.

If I'm keeping track of score, this is one point for the Papists, in my book. But maybe you umpires would make another call from where you stand?