Tuesday, October 6, 2009

From de Duve to Cuervo

In high school biology, we learned to remember the lysosomes' functions in cells by thinking of Lysol. Lysosomes were like little aerosol cans that made your cells shiny and/or lemony fresh.

But I just read this article in the New York Times today about the connections Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo made between lysosomes and aging (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/science/06cell.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc&_r=1). Lysosomes constantly regenerate cells by deconstructing mitochondria, proteins, etc., and spitting out raw material used to make new cell parts. Toxins from old and malfunctioning cell parts are kept in the lysosomes then excreted later. This process (called autophagy, or "self-consumption") slows aging, and some scientists found leads pointing to the lysosomes' crucial role in deterring Alzheimer's, Huntington's disease, and cancer, in addition fixing your mum's wrinkles.

I can't help but find a metaphor in all this. Autophagy keeps us alive. Preservation isn't the key; renewal is. Cannibalism is. The paradox is the same with literature: we deconstruct it, we masticate it, we process old ideas, keeping the healthy ones and spitting out the flaws. The process immortalizes some literature and leaves others to fade away. Hopefully our literary lysosomes see fit to excrete toxins like "Twilight" and everything penned by Danielle Steele. Next time one of you thinks to suggest a book to me, remember, autophagize first. I don't want some -fresh-off-the-press, unautophagized young adult chiclit.

Just the other day, I was sitting by myself, doing some massive mastication, with some incense and candles lit, some Earth, Wind & Fire mood music going, when my lysosomes say, "Yo, bitch! Stop watching that 'Law & Order: SVU' shit. That shit's no good for you. Yeah. We're dumping that shit." So, I watched "Dogma," and as we all know, there's nothing like a little satire, a little Buddy Christ, and a lot of Alanis Morissette to keep the soul young.

1 comment:

  1. funny, I was just talking with brent the other day about how all life requires death. it happens on a larger scale (how else would any of us eat?), and it's interesting now to think of it happening in our own bodies... creation and destruction. it seems to be a basic tenet of how the world works. the two require each other.

    and that is the fun of literature, in my opinion. I still feel like, lacking the kind of education you've got, I'm not as good at deconstructing it all as I could be, but good literature begs to be taken apart, chewed up and spit out at times, argued with, responded to, ingested. I love it.