Monday, February 18, 2008

Giant Microbes

See this cute and cuddly creature? It's a Giant Microbe. Those brainy folks at Mind Hacks used this image to illustrate their blog entry called Furry Neurons. I'm a big lover of Giant Microbes so I was drawn in immediately, only to get brain-slapped in 10 seconds.

What in the blue blazes is an oligodendrocyte? I can barely focus my eyes on that word, much less my brain. But a nagging feeling tells me that I should consider this weighty word.

The itsy-bitsy beasty pictured above isn't an oligodendrocyte per se. It is a brain cell (so it IS a neuron) and it is furry. But probably not so much the latest addition to my Giant Microbe collection. The lil' guy below, though...

It's a Red Blood Cell -- much cuter and more fitting to what my family is dealing with right now. It will remind me of my dog Julie's struggle to regenerate her RBC's.

Ooh, ha ha ha! Check out this T4 (bacteriophage). It reminds me of Jack Skellington, that slender, undead dude in the The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Oops. Before I got sidetracked I was noodling through how (or from where) I know the word oligodendrocytes. Because let's face it, it's not a word you see every day.

Wikipedia explains them in layman terms as the support staff (sort of like Administrative Assistants?) for neurons. Oligodendrocytes form the myelin sheath.

A-ha! Now we're getting somewhere. I've heard of "myelin sheath" in MS discussions.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a devastating central nervous system disease that claimed the life of my oldest sister at the age of 38. But more to the point, MS destroys oligodendrocytes which are the cells responsible for creating and maintaining (well whaddya know?) the myelin sheath.

Isn't the brain a funny thing? Thank you, Mind Hacks, for posting about Giant Microbes. You helped steer me back on target to a cause that is near and dear to my heart, the fight for the MS cure.

Now I wish there were a Giant Microbe of an oligodendrocyte so I could add it to my collection.

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