Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cellular Chatter

Secret language of cells

They're all talking about you. Billions of tiny voices whispering day and night, commenting on everything you say and do, controlling your every move. But there's no need to get paranoid-these ceaseless conversations are being held between the cells of your own body as they work as a team to keep you alive
CELLULAR CHATTER is essential for all multicellular animals. Without it, the coordination and cooperation of the millions of cells in our bodies would break down. It would be like trying to run a country with no telephones, post or Internet, where the people were unable to speak.

Everything you do relies on the ability of cells to talk to each other. Communication is needed in a developing embryo to tell cells where to go, what to become and when to divide. Signals between cells orchestrate your appetite, movement and behaviour. When communications fail, the consequences can be devastating, from birth defects to autoimmune disease and cancer.

So how do cells communicate? Although each is contained within its own plasma membrane, they are not shut off from one another. Cells in most tissues are connected by tiny "tunnels" called gap junctions, which are essentially cylindrical membrane proteins with channels running through ...

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