Friday, September 11, 2009

Cellular Immune System Like a Computer

New research is uncovering the details of how our bodies defend themselves against pathogens. The broad outline of how the immune system recognizes and attacks pathogens has long been understood, but the new research is uncovering new and important details.

Using immune cells taken from mice, the researchers observed the response of thousands of genes after expsure to pathogens. What they found was a sophisticated hierarchy of actions. As one writer put it:

Cells receive and process information much like computers. Information flows in, is read and processed through a complex set of circuits, and an appropriate response is delivered. But instead of tiny transistors, the internal circuitry of mammalian cells is made up of vast networks of genes and their corresponding proteins. A frontier of modern genomic research is to identify these molecular parts and their interconnections, which reflect the normal — and sometimes faulty — "wiring" that underlies human biology and disease. Until recently, research in this area focused on yeast and bacteria because it was nearly impossible to undertake in mammals.

Decoding this cellular computer was not easy. The researchers systematically knocked out genes and recorded the resulting changes. They discovered a vast genetic circuitry, with thousands of connections between components, divided into two major arms for defense against viral and bacterial infections. They also found a hierarchy of control, with some genes controlling a wide array of activities and others more narrowly focused.

This is by no means the first time this sort of molecular circuitry has been found within the cell. Phenomenal DNA repair mechanisms have also been found in recent years. As one researcher put it:

It’s almost as if cells have something akin to a computer program that becomes activated by DNA damage, and that program enables the cells to respond very quickly.

Beyond these findings, what is truly amazing is that these mind-boggling designs arose all by themselves. Evolution, which produced so much junk DNA and so many useless designs, nonetheless performed miracle after miracle. Our best scientists are only scratching the surface of what that warm little pond gave rise to. Fortunately, evolutionists will figure all this out--after all, they're all about science.

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