Deep inside cells, a clue to the mind:
MICROTUBULES within CELLS.. and “InterFacial Water” within the MICROTUBULES…and then ????
The microtubule appears to be a fundamental information-processing device in biology,” said Anirban Bandyopadhyay, who has led what some consider pioneering studies on microtubules over the past five years.
“This work suggests that the microtubule is the computing and signalling hardware in cells,”
Before we get to the rest of the story: here’s the link that started us thinking:
Indian physicists find signatures of hidden information-processing network
Their results suggest that microtubules — maybe even brain cells or all neurons as a whole — may be able to exchange information wirelessly through a phenomenon called resonance without the need for synapses, the tiny junctions that relay chemical or electrical signals between neurons.
While electronic devices work with two information un-its — zero or one — a microtubule can store about 500 units. “Couple that with millions of microtubules in a single cell and we may be looking at a very powerful information-pr-ocessing system,” .
THE REST OF THE STORY:
For background on what this “active matter” approach means see our link here:
We have been fascinated with this story because, among other concerns, we have been convinced of the usefulness of the work of Karl Pribram in his Holonomic theory of brain function, to point of view in regard to which we articulated our apriori intellectual attraction on strictly conceptual “niceness” in our Facebook Page.
Karl Pribram developed a “holographic” model of the operation of the human brain, inspired by the discovery of the first holograms in the mid-1960s.
His holonomic brain theory (quantum holography) invoked quantum mechanics to explain higher order processing by the mind. He argued the holonomic model solved the binding problem. In a hologram, all of the pieces of information recorded in the form of interference patterns on each fragment of the photographic medium can be used to reconstruct the entire image and to provide a three-dimensional view of it as a whole.
By analogy, Pribram believed that memories are not stored in cells at specific sites in the brain, but are rather “contained” or we would prefer “embodied” in the wave-interference patterns the run through it.
Worked out after years of informal collaboration with quantum physicist David Bohm, this model suggests that consciousness may emerge through the processing of information among dendrites and that the action potentials propagated along axons might in contrast be the substrate for the brain’s non-conscious activities. Pribram proposed that ordered water at dendritic membrane surfaces might operate by structuring Einstein-Bore condensation supporting quantum dynamics.
More recently, Jack Tuszynski, a physicist at the University of Alberta, Canada, who collaborated with Hameroff three years ago to propose that memories may be encoded in microtubules, said the studies by Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues have shown that microtubules have features “never seen in any material known to us”.
So then what can be said about these microtubules.
Microtubules, self- assembling hollow crystalline cylinders whose walls are hexagonal lattices of subunit proteins known as tubulin are a critical component of the cytoskeleton, vital for cell division and, because of that, an excellent target for chemotherapy drugs
Microtubule nanotubes are found in every living eukaryotic cell ; these are formed by reversible polymerization of the tubulin protein, and their hollow fibers are filled with uniquely arranged water molecules.
Interiors of living cells are functionally organized by webs of protein polymers—the cytoskeleton. Microtubules are essential for a variety of bio-logical functions including cell movement, cell division (mitosis) and establishment and maintenance of cell form and function. In neurons, microtubules self-assemble to extend axons and dendrites and form synaptic connections; microtubules then help maintain and regulate synaptic strengths responsible for learning and cognitive functions.
Microtubules couple to and regulate neural-level synaptic functions, and they may be ideal quantum computers because of dynamical lattice structure, quantum level subunit states and intermittent isolation from environmental inter- actions
These tubules spontaneously self-organize, transforming from many singular components into one large cellular structure capable of performing specific tasks. Think Transformers. How they do that, however, has remained unclear.
The Penrose–Hameroff model (orchestrated objective reduction: ‘Orch OR’) suggests that quantum superposition and a form of quantum computation occur in microtubules—cylindrical protein lattices of the cell cytoskeleton within the brain’s neurons. Potential features of quantum computation, they contend, could explain enigmatic aspects of consciousness
The Orch OR theory (The Orch in Orch OR stands for orchestrated to give the full name of the theory Orchestrated Objective Reduction.) combines the celebrated physicist, Penrose’s, hypothesis with respect to the Gödel theorem with Hameroff’s hypothesis with respect to microtubules. Orchestration refers to the hypothetical process by which connective proteins, known as microtubule associated proteins (MAPs) influence or orchestrate the quantum processing of the microtubules.
The theory further proposes that the microtubules both influence and are influenced by the conventional activity at the synapses between neurons.
Hameroff has proposed that condensates in microtubules in one neuron can link with other neurons via gap junctions
In addition to the synaptic connections between brain cells, gap junctions are a different category of connections, where the gap between the cells is sufficiently small for quantum objects to cross it by means of a process known as quantum tunnelling.
Together, Penrose and Hameroff have proposed that when condensates in the brain undergo an objective reduction of their wave function, that collapse connects to non-computational decision taking/experience embedded in the geometry of fundamental spacetime.
See:”Quantum computation in brain microtubules? The Penrose–Hameroff ‘Orch OR’ model of consciousness”
Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have observed how microtubules and motor proteins assemble into macroscopic networks. Their observation provides a better understanding of cytoskeletal self-organization in general, which may in turn lead to better drug design and new materials that can mimic cellular behaviors.
“We know how motor proteins interact with microtubules but how do you go from individual microtubules and motor proteins to large networked structures?”
Spindles are cellular structures that play an important role in cell division, separating chromosomes and pulling the duplicated DNA from the mother cell into the daughter cell. They are made up of microtubules and many other proteins, including the motor protein dynein.
The white spindles in the center of the cell separate the chromosomes and pull the duplicated DNA from the mother cell into the daughter cell
“What we are really looking for is a grand unified theory of spindle assembly,” said Peter Foster, the paper’s first author.
To gain insight into how spindles assemble, Foster and his team, under the leadership of Dan Needleman, associate professor of applied physics and of molecular and cellular biology, built a simple experiment.
They extracted cytoplasm from frog eggs, which contains dynein and all of the components needed to make spindles, added fluorescent protein and the chemotherapy drug Taxol to create and stabilize microtubules, and loaded the mixture into “the world’s simplest microfluidic chamber.”
“Very quickly, we saw that these microtubules organize into networks that spontaneously contract,” Foster said. “The question is why?” The answer lay not in the microtubules but in the behavior of the motor protein. Microtubules have plus and minus ends and researchers have observed” dynein” moving from the plus end to the minus.
As a result, the motor protein draws the minus ends of microtubules together, creating star-like clusters called asters. The dynein drives these small clusters together, fusing them to create larger and larger networks. Asters form as motor protein draws the minus ends of the purple microtubules together (Image Needleman Lab/Harvard SEAS) As the motor protein continues to jam the microtubules together, the network contracts, until it can’t get any smaller.
Based on this experiment, the researchers developed a model that quantifies and describes this behavior and lends insight into not only spindle assembly but also self-organization in general. “Using this model, we can ask questions from the microscopic level all the way to large scale phenomena,” Foster said. “There are many ramifications not only in biology but also in the material world.”
WHY WATER IS THE MISSING LINK HERE:
Water in the orchestration of the cell machinery. Some misunderstandings: a short review”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3285726/
The iterative propagation of granules, vesicles or organelles along the cytoskeleton by motor proteins like dynein and kinesin have been overlooked mainly for three reasons: (1) ignorance of the physical properties of interfacial water (and even sometimes of its existence); (2) confusion between free form and bound form concentration of a substance; (3) ignorance that most of the diffusion/concentration gradients are not significant in the cell at the macromolecular level.
Most biologists were unaware that cell interior was occupied by a huge macromolecular overcrowding This long-lived ignorance was in part due to the misinterpretation of the electron microscopy images which show more or less dark organelles (mitochondria, ribosomes, etc.) seemingly floating in a very electron-transparent medium, the hyaloplasm (from Greek : hualos = glass), often improperly named cytoplasm, the cytoplasm being sensu stricto the whole cell except the nucleus
This conception has long persisted and is probably still persisting in many minds, in spite of the warnings of eminent cytologists. Keith Porter, particularly, as early as the 1980s, suggested that the fuzzy structures observed in hyaloplasm were not artefacts but should be proteic structures playing a major role in the coordination of cell functions. He named these structures microtrabecules
In this recent article, the authors “discuss some of the more common misinterpretations due to the ignorance of these properties, and expose briefly the bases for a better approach of the cell machinery. Nowadays, biologists can explore the cell at the nanometre level. and they have discovered an unsuspected world, amazingly overcrowded, complex and heterogeneous, in which water, also, is complex and heterogeneous.
His observations have been supported by Zierold who showed that regions apparently devoid of organelles contain not less than 20% macromolecules
In the cell, statistical phenomena, such as diffusion, long considered as the main transport for water soluble substances, must be henceforth considered as inoperative to orchestrate cell activity. But many people persist in believing that for ions and small molecules diffusion is the principal mean of migration in the cell.
The crowding in these regions is less than occurs in mitochondria or ribosomes (which each has 50% macromolecule content), which explain the low contrast of these regions in electron microscopy but it is sufficiently crowded to structure the present water (80%) into a strongly constrained water, called interfacial water.
Nowadays, it is widely known that organelles can move in cells using sophisticated means of transport such as motor proteins along cytoskeleton . This type of transport differs deeply from diffusion. It is not a transport of matter but a transfer of a level of energy (transduction).
A given ion (phosphate, Ca2 + , H + ) seems to be transported along a chain (cascade) of macromolecules containing this ion (or another one) in a sequestered form.
A signal (calcium, for example) occurring at the entry of the chain induces the liberation of the sequestered ion from the first element of the chain. And this one, in its turn, induces the liberation of the ion from the following element, etc: the ion entering the chain remains sequestered by the first element of the chain. The ion appearing at the end of the chain is liberated by the last element of the chain.
In VITRO, the reactants of a given reaction are few in number, but each one is present in a huge number of copies. The classical laws of chemistry, which are statistical laws, therefore have been applied. There exists in the laboratory no problem of timing and synchronization. The molecules of the reaction, generally in aqueous medium, enter into contact by diffusion, quasi-instantaneously, from the experimenter’s perspective.
In VIVO, however, things are deeply different. Because of their huge variety, most of the chemical species present in cell are present in only a very low number of copies. Moreover, they cannot diffuse rapidly because they are separated by tens of macromolecules.
The Indian researchers with whom this post started, speculate that if microtubules can exchange information via electromagnetic waves generated internally by their molecular structures, the information-processing capacity of brain cells would be vastly more complex and superior than has been presumed until now.
Bulk (“free”) water is quasi-absent, appearing only transiently at the nanometre level during configuration changes undergone by macromolecules. However , a monomolecular water channel residing inside the protein-cylinder displays an unprecedented control in governing the tantalizing electronic and optical properties of micro-tubule
Interfacial water, which constitutes the quasi-totality of cell water, has a low and selective solvent power which makes diffusion a poor means of transport to perform complex and ultra-fast cell processes. It undergoes numerous physical changes synchronized with macromolecular transformations.
This study established that the condensation of energy levels and periodic oscillation of unique energy fringes on the microtubule surface emerge as the atomic water core resonantly integrates all proteins around it such that the nanotube irrespective of its size functions like a single protein molecule.
The transmitted ac power and the transient fluorescence decay (single photon count) are independent of the microtubule length. Even more remarkable is the fact that the microtubule nanowire is more conducting than a single protein molecule that constitutes the nanowire.
“Atomic water channel controlling remarkable properties of a single brain micro-tubule: correlating single protein to its supramolecular assembly.”
The problem of orchestration at the micrometer (organelles) level is still in its infancy. The organization of the organelles is explored with an increased precision, but far from making the problem clearer that makes it more and more puzzling.
For example, it has been shown recently that the mechanics of the kinetochore, to direct chromosome motion via microtubules and promote the arrest of cell cycle, involves not less than a hundred proteins
They authors of the pubished research remark that “The finding that such omnipresent biological structures are capable of storing information is amazing.”
We cannot comment further (for now) in any sophisticated away about the amazing implications of this research…other than it moves us in a direction of supporting the Pribram holonomic model in terms of theoretical detail which was not considered in its totality when Pribram..inspired by David Bohm and Penrose put it forward.