be careful where you clique
Phagocytosis (cell eats cell) is a nifty skill set that all vertebrates possess as part of their immune defense mechanism. Ilya Mechnikov was the first guy to understand that white blood cells in your body could eat and destroy invading cells like bacteria.
Given the right circumstances, your munching cells can even attack your own disobedient cells (tumor protection). When Mechnikov proposed his theory, he was laughed at and mocked by the international community of scientists… people like Louis Pasteur- Louis the mocker. But Ilya quietly kept his stance and, in 1908, he received a Nobel Prize for his work. Later he was even stamped by the Posta CCCP.
Amazing… that the knowledge we use and often take for granted today was painstakingly researched in the past. The details of how these cells function and integrate into your body’s immune system are known because hundreds of people in the past put their heads together and asked why.
In the high-speed microscope video posted below, one such white blood cell, a neutrophil, is chasing around some staphylococci bacteria. Notice how the cell can track it’s movements… Chemicals oozing from the bacteria trigger receptors on the neutrophil. This incites a cascade of mechanical changes that rearrange the internal scaffolding of the cell and ultimately lead to movement in the direction of the stimulus.
Once the invader has been engulfed, the neutrophil then has to break it down. Inside the neutrophil you can see compartmentalized bubbles that fuse with the ingested bacteria…these are highly toxic enzymes (proteins that can break down walls). The whole process has to be choreographed like Disney on Ice. If the system was activated at the wrong time… it could result in situations like autoimmune disorders. If the toxic enzymes were fed-exed to the wrong department… you could end up with all sorts of back-ups and disorders.
Right now, episodes like this are playing all throughout your body, and that’s a very good thing. Part of you IS these cells that spend their entire lifetime (hours, days, years) contributing to preservation of your other cells so that you can get on with your day to day.
you are an ecosystem.