“Dying to See”
The lens of the eye is the only completely transparent tissue in the human body. The transparency of the lens is caused by its ability to self destruct its cells. Studies have found that by understanding the lens cells of the eye, and it’s ability to become and remain transparent, we may have a better idea of how to prevent diseases in which cells commit “suicide”, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and AIDS. In nature, complete transparency in a species is very rare. This is because the cells in the animal have organelles, which are important for the production of things such as proteins and lipids. Some cells absorb certain wavelengths of light, which gives them color, as well as melanins and blood supply in the cell, which the lens has none off. This alone is not enough for complete transparency, though. When the lens is being formed in a fetus, it contains organelles, but they are destroyed during early development. Although the lens can survive the suicide of cells, the mature cells cannot repair themselves if damaged, because they have no nuclei. The molecules that make up the cells in a human body generally live half lives, consisting of a few minutes to a few days. These molecules are always being replaced though, while lens have to function for a lifetime. The lack of repair mechanism can cause certain stresses, such as dehydration that can cause cataracts. Cataracts can also be caused by regular exposure to things like oxygen free radicals and UV radiation, or elevated blood sugar caused by diabetes.
Scientists have found that the process in which the lens destroys its organelles may solve some huge illnesses in the humanrace. The ability to stop cell suicide came as a surprise because they always thought that it was an unstoppable process. They decided that they needed a mechanism that could stop cells from self destructing. To accomplish this, scientists must find the “blockers” that stop destruction. Discovering what...
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