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Quantum biology scientists discovered a cell-wide web, used to transfer messages inside the cell

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Posted May 25, 2019

Up until now it was believed that various organs and structures float in cytoplasm inside a cell. Scientists thought that messages through the cells are transferred via waves. However, this understanding is quickly changing as scientists from the University of Edinburgh discovered a cell-wide web – a communication network constructed from  guide wires that transmit signals across nanoscale distances.

Instructions within the cells are transferred with a help of charged molecules – it is sort of a computer circuit. Image credit: GerryShaw via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientists say that this means that there is a circuit board inside every cell, but it is not fixed in its structure like computer boards. Instead, they are rewired to change the behaviour of the cells. Scientists say that there is a huge network of guide wires, which is guiding charged molecules that transfer instruction between different organs and other structures in cytoplasm. These nanoscale movements have large consequences. For example, this is how instructions to flex or relax muscles are transfered. Eventually, these signals reach the genetic material at the heart of the cell, called the nucleus, and change which genes are expressed. This changes the entire behaviour of the cell.

Identifying this network is just part of the work. Now scientists will try to understand the code that controls this wiring system. It is believed that this could be the key to solving some diseases, such as pulmonary hypertension and cancer. Professor Mark Evans, one of the authors of the study, said: “The most striking thing is that this circuit is highly flexible, as this cell-wide web can rapidly reconfigure to deliver different outputs in a manner determined by the information received by and relayed from the nucleus. This is something no man-made microprocessors or circuit boards are yet capable of achieving”.

Interestingly, scientists identified the cell-wide web by studying the movement of charged calcium molecules inside cells. From previous studies scientists knew that charged calcium molecules are key at transferring messages inside of the cells. They used high-powered microscopes to observe the wiring network in a work, which is an example of an emerging field of quantum biology.

Quantum biology uses quantum mechanics and theoretical chemistry to solve biological problems. It is believed that this approach could help solving some decades-old medical problems and could even lead to new treatments to previously incurable diseases. This new way of thinking and research methods are just gaining traction, but quantum biology is already believed to have huge potential.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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