Thursday, 19 March 2015

Hour 4: Chinese whispers

Dear Diary,

Today a cell on the other side of the tumor went through apoptosis (i.e. it died). We still haven't understood why this happened. Some say the cell was stressing too much because lately we’ve had quite a lack in nutrients. Others thought it hadn’t yet learned how to control its P53 levels. For you non-cells out there, P53 is what scientists like to call a tumor suppressor protein. What it basically means is that in the fight against cancer, P53 is on the human side. It’s really good at detecting when the cell’s DNA has too many mutations in it, and, when it does, it makes the cell die before it can become one of us. Like some kind of anti-zombie prevention. Most of us tumors have learned to control our P53 levels, but some newly split cells are not as fortunate. Like the cell that died today. 

As you can imagine, it was awful: as soon as people realised P53 was causing it to enter apoptosis, there was screaming, and panic, cell were running everywhere and…ok, that’s not entirely true. Maybe there wasn’t any chaotic running. We are tumour cells, we cannot run. We cannot even walk: we are so stuck to each other we put superglue to shame. And maybe there wasn’t any screaming... Cells can’t scream! If we could, each human would be accompanied by a constant unexplained buzzing sound emanating from every pore. Think a swarm of bees makes a scary sound? Well imagine what a crowd of people could do if every cell would scream. And so, we whisper. Really softly. And luckily, we are so tiny that even all of our whispers put together don’t make much noise.. So that when we talk to each other, our human hosts just assume that the noise they hear must be from their clothes brushing against each other, or the wind…humans can be so na├»ve sometimes. 

Well anyways, today the cell died. But before it did, it whispered: ‘Oh no! Not p53’. This made the neighboring cells  quite alarmed, and soon whispers of   P53 started to spread. Only whispers don’t spread the way words said in a regular tone would. Ever played ‘Chinese whispers’? Something similar happened today. The terrorized murmurs of ‘P53!’, by the time they had reached my side of the tumor, sounded slightly different:

‘Hey guys, pee filthy tree!’  ‘What?!’  ‘Huh?!’  ‘Hey, don’t be rude, say pardon’ ‘Hey cells, I think I’m growing, look! Look! Do you think it’s G1??’  ‘Pardon’  ‘What’s a tree?’  ‘Pee filthy tree!!’ ‘Guys, I really think this is it! I’m fatter!!’ ‘No, I don’t think you’re fatter’ ‘Pee filthy tree!’ ‘What’s that cell saying?’ ‘I think it wants to pee’.

It went on like this for the next half hour. By the time we realised what was happening, the cell was long dead. And I wish the only problem was its passing. You see, human cells don’t die as humans would: we don’t have our life flash before our eyes. We don’t slowly follow the light and peacefully pass on, with our faces angelic and a slight smile on our faces. Cells implode. Literally. Our insides start degenerating, until they become 'outsides'. On every cells around them, outsides. You think the p53 murmur was a cry for help? It was a warning to get out of the splash zone. But guess what, as we are glued together, there was no getting out of anything. All I can say is that I now feel like that dead cell is part of me…..

Overall, it was not the best hour of my existence. And now we have a new problem to deal with: when a cell dies, immune cells come round to get rid of its leftovers (they eat them). It’s purely for protection purposes, they don’t want other cells insides to damage healthy cells around them. The problem is cancers are not what you would call a 'healthy cell', and if the immune cells find out we are here, they will destroy us. 

So guess what? I’m off to get a fake I.D. They might even take my first picture…wish me luck!

Cell X

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