Friday, December 5, 2008

Bugs, friend or foe? - consider the mitochondria


Bacteria are not necessarily our enemies. The TB bug (Mycobacteria tuberculosis) has been around for a very long time and has co-evolved with us. For the most it is quite content to grow slowly and hide in our tissues without much fanfare...flaring up only when our immunity is down. You would consider that a smart bug will not try and kill its host.

Another smart bug began collaborating with us from our very origins. The earliest cells enveloped them into their internal environment, and outsourced their energy requirements to them. In time they got incorporated into the energy functions of every living cell, and even insinuated themselves into our reproductive cycles. These bugs, now called mitochondria (singular, mitochondrion) gets transmitted with our mother's eggs.

Many scientists believe that the health of these mitochondria may underlie much of human health and disease.

We still do not know what is the ancestral bug that gave rise to the mitochondria, but we are all agreed, this is one very smart bug.

2 comments:

auntielucia said...

"You would consider that a smart bug will not try and kill its host."

It's a thought I've been toying with for a few years. And wonder whether early detection of anything really saves lives or in effect prevents the body (which God has made wondrously, as one Xian friend of mine is wont to say)from dealing with the imbalance?

Hmm wot will all those vested interests who have billions invested in machinery n research say, hehe?

gigamole said...

Well....it would make sense that any bug that is dependant on the host for its nutritional needs should not try and destroy its host. Trouble is that many bugs are new to their role, or have only 'newly discovered' their host, so in the struggle to survive and propagate they inadvertently compete with the host and often end up destroying the host. And in the process limit their own survivability.

There is actually a lesson in this for us...and I will try and post a bit more about it later.

Cheers. Have a nice weekend.