Virtually everyone is familiar with DNA.
In criminal trials we hear how the probability of two people sharing the same DNA traits found at the crime scene can be less than a billion to one. Sometimes the DNA helps convict the guilty party and in other cases it helps free those that have been wrongly convicted years earlier.
All too often, we hear how mistakes or mutations in DNA have lead to a number of birth defects, diseases and life altering conditions such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia and Down’s syndrome to name just a few.
In school, we are taught that all of the information about us is contained in the DNA in every cell of our body. From the time an egg has been fertilized by a sperm, the combined DNA dictates the growth and division of the egg, the formation of muscle, bone and the various organs. The DNA acts like a set of blueprints at a building site directing everything to grow and develop in its place and at specific times. However, unlike blueprints, the DNA continues to govern our bodies from the moment of conception until the time of our death.
DNA has long been called the language of the cell. It is comprised of four nucleotides: adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. The adenine and thymine combine together and the cytosine and guanine combine together. The arrangements of these four base units spell out the language of the cell. Clusters of these base pairs form genes. The genes are linked together in long strands to form the DNA.
One could say that the base pairs are the letters, the genes the sentences and each DNA strand a chapter. Put all of the DNA strands together in one cell and you have the complete book of the life of that particular organism.
But did you know that there is a second language of the cell known as oligosaccharides?
This second language is as different from DNA as English is from Mandarin Chinese. English and Mandarin don’t look the same nor do they operate the same, yet each are just as important to the survival of the people who speak them and the same is true with the two languages of every cell are to the survival of the person.
Oligosaccharides are carbohydrate molecules combined with two or more monosaccharides (simple sugars). There are numerous carbohydrate molecules and monosaccharide sugars that can be combined to form more than a hundred different oligosaccharides.
Unlike DNA that is contained within the cell, oligosaccharides are found outside the cell along the cell membrane. They are responsible for cell-to-cell communication and they control what enters the cell and what happens to material that is expelled from the cell.
In high school biology, one learns about cell structures such as food and water vacuoles. They are small membranes that form around food or water as they are transported within the cell. The oligosaccharides govern which food and water particles are allowed to enter the cell. When a waste vacuole ejects waste material from the cell, the oligosaccharides are responsible for passing it on to the next cell and to the next until it is collected by the blood stream and transported to the kidneys to be filtered out and disposed of.
Oligosaccharides also play a very important role in reproduction. When sperm reach an egg, the oligosaccharides will pick one and only one sperm cell and will allow it to enter the cell membrane of the egg. Once that happens, a chemical change occurs throughout the hundreds of other oligosaccharide molecules that line the outer membrane of the egg. That chemical change causes them to now block any other sperm from entering the egg. In some cases of infertility, the oligosaccharides prevent any sperm from entering the egg, thus blocking any chance of fertilization. On some rare occasions, the oligosaccharides allow a second sperm to enter the egg, which can result in a triploid chromosome number which is not only extremely rare, but usually very harmful to the newly fertilized egg.
Oligosaccharides also play an important role in disease prevention. In order for a bacteria or virus to enter a cell and infect it, it has to be recognized by an oligosaccharide molecule which allows it to pass through the cell membrane and infect the cell. In a perfectly healthy individual, the oligosaccharides block the undesired agent from entering the cell, thus preventing infection and disease. In some instances, the oligosaccharides will bind and hold the bacteria or virus, not allowing it to go anywhere.
Many researchers today are studying which oligosaccharide responds to a specific virus or bacteria. Once identified, they must determine what other functions that oligosaccharide performs and then they can try to figure out how to block it from recognizing the virus or bacteria. If they are successful, they can work to develop a way to prevent the spread and infection of that particular disease. The medical possibilities are endless in this field.
Without oligosaccharides, the cells would not know what to allow into them or what do with the waste material they evacuate. Either disease would run rampant the kill the cells and organisms or nothing would enter and the cells would starve and die.
As different from DNA as English is to Mandarin, they are both vitally important to the overall survival of the cell and organism, just as the languages are to the billions of people on the Earth.
Dr. Lee Spetner, in his book Not by Chance and others have often written and spoken on how impossible it would be for a single information system such as DNA to have randomly formed by chance no matter how many billions of years you would give it. Now I ask you to contemplate the probability of TWO information systems, each completely different from the other, to have randomly formed by chance at the same time? If the probability of one such system is zero, then the probability of two different systems forming at the same time must be less than zero.
Evolutionary science has no answer to how these two cellular languages could have formed simultaneously by chance. The Law of Information says that information can only come from information and we know that the only source of information that existed at the beginning was none other than God, the Creator of all life that exists.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.