I am in absolute awe of a single human cell.
I am in wonder of the body’s ability to heal itself.
I am amazed at how our cells communicate with each other at a level that staggers the imagination.
All the cells in your body are in elaborate communication with each other. In the immune system there is one particular immune cell (the macrophage) that can detect the presence of a single cancer cell anywhere in the body. When it detects a cancer cell, it will signal other immune cells and together they will track down and destroy all cancer cells as they find them.
How can it do that? Cancer cells give off chemical signals that differentiate them from all other cells in the body. Cancer cells actually “smell” different. Just as a shark can detect a few drops of blood in the water from miles away, or as a bear can smell a human miles off, a macrophage can detect the chemical trail of a cancer cell.
Immune cells “talk” to each other by means of chemical messengers (cytokines). There are over a hundred billion immune cells in the body. They are always listening. When an immune cell sends a message, all of the other immune cells listen to it and respond. In comparison, there are only nine billion people on the earth. Can you imagine all of these people simultaneously receiving a message from you, in your language, and responding to it at any time, day or night?
All cells have an inside and an outside. A two layered membrane separates the outside of the cell from the inside. The passage of nutrients and small molecules is tightly controlled by receptors. The receptors penetrate the cell’s membrane, part of the receptor protrudes through the cell membrane into the fluid outside of the cell; and, part of the receptor is protruding into the fluid inside of the cell.
Each cell has several hundred thousand receptors penetrating the cell’s membrane. To give you a sense of the magnitude and complexity of cellular communication, imagine you are sitting at the very center of the cell looking out at the inside membrane as if it were the night sky. You would see several hundred thousand receptors penetrating through the membrane. When you actually view the night sky with the naked eye, you are only able to view about 3000 stars in the best of conditions.
Our cells listen by way of their receiving sites, or receptors, on the cell’s surface membrane. A receptor or antenna is open to only the right fitting molecules; they can’t “hear” messages that don’t fit. When a molecule comes along that is shaped to bind to the receptor site, that receptor will then relay the appropriate signal to the cell’s interior. Thus, there is a transfer of information from the outside of the cell to its interior.
The binding of messenger molecules to the receptor sites is often described as being similar to a lock and key arrangement. Actually, the receptor pulls the messenger molecule into the site by molecule attraction; the receptor site vibrates and hums as it tightens the fit. Depending upon the purpose of the receptor, the message molecule may create a cascade of activity inside the cell, or it may be an instruction for the cell to open a channel to receive a specific nutrient or other molecule into the cell.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ~ Albert Einstein
Information helps you to become familiar with a subject. Becoming familiar with the subject gives you knowledge. But just having knowledge can leave you feeling left in the dark. It is not enough just to have knowledge; you also need to be able to apply that knowledge – that requires understanding.
To know how your immune cells communicate with each other is important knowledge. When you understand that something you are doing is interfering with the communication among your immune cells then you are able to apply this knowledge and take the appropriate action to restore the health of your immune system.
For example, should you avoid alcohol? Every alcoholic drink you drink your immune cells drink with you. The macrophage immune cells are your early warning system that defends you against an attack by cancer cells. Suppose they become so inebriated that they cannot “smell” the trail of a cancer cell, or that they are unable to hear the warning message sent by other immune cells. What will be the consequences?
Alcohol has been classified as a class I cancer-causing agent (carcinogenic) since 1988. The American Cancer Society points out that studies have found a link between alcohol intake and the risk of developing a number of cancers, including the recurrence of breast cancer.
They also point out that alcohol is removed from your body primarily by the liver, which carries the load of detoxifying your body. This is a serious consideration during cancer treatment. Many of the drugs used to treat cancer are removed by the liver. Alcohol, by causing inflammation, could increase the side effects of treatment. Cancer cells need inflammation to grow and invade new territories. The advice by the American Cancer Society is to drink only a little alcohol, if any.
Your immune cells have an elaborate, awesome system of communication that they use to attack cancer cells.
Having knowledge of how cells communicate gives you the opportunity to apply this knowledge to participate in your healing process.
When considering the health of your immune system, ask yourself: Is there anything in my life that I should stop? Is there anything in my life that I should start?