Ever watched yourself bleed?
(This is a lot less creepy than it sounds. Stay with me here.)
If you’ve ever cut yourself and allowed the wound to bleed until it began to clot naturally, you’d know that for an average person’s average cut the clotting starts in 15 seconds. (15 seconds. You can’t freaking reheat a cup of coffee in 15 seconds. But I digress.) Your bleeding will begin to slow, and in about another 30- 45 seconds the blood will start to coagulate visibly, forming the beginnings of a scab.
The human body is gorgeously, labyrinthinely complex. This apparently tangential piece of obviousness is by way of a disclaimer, since I’m about to tell you that I can’t explain the exact sequence of the coagulation cascade to you.
That’s right. No doctor, biochemist, or biophysicist on earth can explain the exact order of the series of chemical and biological reactions- an insanely swift torrent of precise responses that has the blood congealing on your hypothetical index finger within 15 seconds- that is your body’s first response to an injury.
Humans have been bleeding since- well, since long before we were actually human. We’ve had hundreds- arguably thousands- of years of studying the human body and advances in our understanding of biology so gigantic that we now “build” organisms with the same regularity with which our ancestors built wagons. We can make molecular “machines”, transplant entire faces, and clone animals- but we can’t explain exactly how a scab forms.
It’s astounding- and a testimony to the impenetrable intricacy of the process.
All this is by way of explaining just how bloody (no pun intended) wicked it is that we’ve now discovered another crucial element in that sophisticated avalanche of response. And what makes it even cooler is the epic beauty of the new factor: intra- and extra-nuclear RNA from the damaged cells.
Genetic material from the parts of our bodies which are damaged becomes an integral part of its healing response.
As you absorb the shining immaculacy, the poetic magnificence of that solution, let me give you a little of the science which grounds it. The secondary (that is, the more rare ‘contact pathway’) cascade takes one of its final effects when the blood hits a “foreign surface”, and generally that has been understood to be the epithelial cells outside of and surrounding the wound. But there also had to be some “surface” inside the body- some “foreign surface” which allowed the clotting to begin before the blood hit the air/skin, in order for the clot to form with enough rapidity to prevent excessive blood loss. It was equally clear that that “surface” was something which was not normally found in the bloodstream, yet was an organic component found naturally inside the body.
That something is the RNA spilled from the ordinary cells torn when an injury occurs. It’s the long-sought “natural foreign surface”, the factor that has been elusive for so very long.
Ribonucleic acid: protein translator, self-synthesizer, DNA messenger. Clotting factor.
It’s incredible. It’s elegant. It’s so exquisite I can hardly breathe.
The cells’ injury is what enables protection of the tissue.
Heal thyself, indeed.
(See the original article here.)