Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hour 8: Betrayal

Dear diary,

If I had been told that the reason we would thrive would be our alliance with the immune cells, I wouldn’t have believed it. Just a few short hours ago, we were distraught at the thought of what the encounter with the immune system could cause us. We feared the closeness, the contact: surely they would realise we weren’t meant to be there. But then we were spared without so much as a second glance. I mean, I know we put a lot of work into those fake I.D.s, but come on: they really should have more reliable ways of determining what’s real and what isn’t. I feel like we are a Trojan horse, welcomed into our host’s body with ceremony, only to turn out to be the one that will cause its destruction.

And then the immune cells left, and with the lack of other cell debris, I thought we wouldn’t see them for a while. Instead, the macrophages started to come and visit us more and more regularly, until they became an almost constant presence around us. For the humans reading this, the macrophages are part of the ‘rumbling-tums’ army of the immune system (see post entitled ‘Hour 7’): they are huge cells, the biggest I have seen in my existence…For humans they would be like glowing white dinosaurs. And like dinosaurs, they do not seem to be so smart, but their size grants them authority amongst other cells. Their sheer aim in life is to eat, and their only selection in their meal is that they will eat anything that is not meant to be in the body. As if a human would pick a house, and start eating anything that entered it without his/her permission…ugh!

At first I thought that the macrophage’s constant presence was due to their hunger: maybe they were just hoping one of us would drop dead so that they would have more debris to snack on. Or maybe they were suspicious of our presence, so they were waiting around in case one of us would make a false move, and then they would have an all-you-can-eat buffet of tumor cells to devour. I would never have suspected that these cells were actually there to help us: like corrupt policemen, macrophages work against their human host. As a rapidly growing mass, tumor cells need a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen. Other organs attain it through blood vessels, which have been carefully orchestrated to grow in a manner that ensures that all cells are irrigated with a sufficient supply. However, as tumor cells are an unplanned presence, there will be no blood vessels in their close proximity. And molecules can only travel so far (they do not, after all, have any form of transportation other than random floating). Hence, until we can somehow increase our blood supply, our tumor mass will not be able to grow (yay!). Unluckily, the macrophages not only planning to protect us against all other immune cells, but will also help us attain a good blood supply. And that is only the start: they mentioned that one day they could even allow us to be able to wander around the body! Now, before you start panicking and accusing macrophages for all the evils in the world, just be aware that if you are a healthy human, it is probably thanks to those macrophages. They are not all bad: they are mostly amazingly good. I think it’s just us tumors that somehow corrupt them, and make them work against you. At least human scientists are beginning to pick up on this behavior: seems macrophages are playing the double game in most bodies. Some believe macrophages should be targeted for anti-cancer therapies. I think they deserve it. Let’s hope it won’t come to that though, as anti-cancer therapies will also wipe me out.

Gosh diary, what can I say? It’s hard. It’s hard to be a tumor cell, born evil, trying to fight your nature with every diffusion of oxygen. It’s hard to pretend to be just like every other tumor cell, so as to strike at the most appropriate moment and somehow make a difference. But it’s harder still to realise that the cells that were meant to support you in the fight are actually working against you. Is there any good left in this body?

Cell X

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