Friday, January 4, 2008

The Society of Science, modern Olympus

While we mere mortals go about our daily business of tending children, answering phones, or assembling corporate projects and such, a society of Great Minds is at work, all over the world, scarcely noticed until breakthroughs are made.

They are scientists. "Science," literally, means "knowledge." So they are "knowers."

I blogged yesterday about a mysterious ingredient in my potato chips: disodium guanylate.

Today I was reading through a webpage about bacterial toxicity. I'd be a damnable liar if I said I understood half the terms on that page, but still, it fascinated me. How things work fascinates me. How they affect other things fascinates me. For example, we know that poison ivy makes you itch. Well, why, when the leaf of a bean plant does not? And then you get into a whole discussion about the oil urushiol and how humans are allergic to it but birds and other animals are not; and the whole mechanism of allergenic response, and you could talk for hours.

For example, I recently finished reading a book about syphilis, which did not answer one basic question that I had about the disease: what exactly does T. pallidium, the syphilis germ, do to cause the host of problems that it creates in the body?

According to this webpage, if I understood it correctly, some bacteria actually secrete enzymes and such that cause our cells, which are just tiny balloons full of vital goo, to leak and thus die. Maybe t. pallidium does that. And how, specifically, these enzymes bind to cells and then break in -- microbial burglars as it were -- is the provenance of those Very Smart People in the lab coats.

It also noted that e.coli, which has been in the news so much lately, secretes a toxin that not only flushes electrolytes and water from your intestinal tract -- i.e., keeps you on the pot in pain -- but also stimulates guanylate cyclase.

There's that g-word again. The additive in my potato chips. Or rather, some chemical combo that includes it.

G.C. regulates cellular proteins. The plot thickens.

Here's the page, for your reference and mine: http://www.textbookofbacteriology.net/proteintoxins.html

3 comments:

Janice Thomson said...

What an informative link ECD. I will definitely be delving into that a little more.
I wanted to add in the last post that perhaps even scarier are the addictive additives found in food today - a guarantee you will be back to buy more. In particular I'm thinking of MSG which now has 25 different names used to hide the words MSG, in order to ensure people will buy certain products over others. MSG is the number one reason for the obesity of today's children aside from their laziness because of modern technology. MSG often comes as part of another chemical hence it does not have to be named in the list of ingredients. People may think they are not eating it because they don't see the actual words monosodium glutamate but it is there in almost all fast foods, prepared foods and junk food and is even added to the preservatives used to maintain product freshness in raw foods to increase shelf life.
Sorry for the long tirade. :)

eastcoastdweller said...

Thanks for the compliment, Janice. DG is actually one of those chemicals that You mentioned which is linked to MSG.

My Wife and I have struggled mightily to stay trans-fat free over the last few years -- the ^%$ ingredient is in everything. We've had to lay off Doritos and almost every kind of sweet pastry -- but also bouillon cubes, some cereals, some granola bars, even many brands of hot cocoa.

I'm not a panicker when it comes to food. I figure moderation in all things will do a body just fine -- a little bacon, sweets now and then, a fried chicken splurge, no big deal. But I hate it when companies put in health-detrimental additives without a compelling need to do so.

If one company can make a certain product without trans-fat, then there is no excuse for the rest not to follow suit.

If you have to dump in MSG or its many cousins, in order to make your product taste better, then maybe your product doesn't deserve to be sold.

Ela (braveheart) said...
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