Thursday, November 22, 2007

And we rest...

This week's breakthrough in stem cell research was a fascinating one for me. It brought with is a spiritual experience (if you could call it that) that made me feel peaceful and even more secure in my beliefs about the world and the existence of God. As a scientist you have to accept that there are things we do not yet understand and that cannot be explained. Religious people will often insert God is this knowledge gap and call it evidence of a higher power. Atheists merely acknowledge there is still more to learn and continue to look for the answers.

Pluripotency (the ability to become any kind of cell) has always intrigued me. Knowing that life begins with two cells joining together and believing that as magical as it is it does not require supernatural interjection, leads one to conclude that all cells at some point in their life must be stem cells. If this weren't the case it would mean that somehow, two cells that came from the same parent cells would have had to have become fundamentally different in their structure. It just never made sense.

This week two separate groups of scientists confirmed that by turning on a specific (actually two distinct but related) genetic pathway, any cell could become pluripotent. It made me feel happy - like a piece of the puzzle that I knew was missing but still hadn't found just dropped into place.

That is what we are all looking for in the end I suppose. For the world around us to make sense. I'm just happy that I can find my answers in the world I actually live in without having to conjure up an imaginary being to help me.

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