SGU Science Picture of the Week: Cthulhu Apoptosis
What you are seeing is not a baby cthulhu taking its first apocalyptic baby steps. This is a representation of a breast cancer cell and specific drug molecules sent to combat it.
The artists that created this image used a combination of 3D software and Adobe Photoshop to illustrate the players in this titanically microscopic battle. The tentacled beast is the cancer cell (duh) and those weird green T-shaped things are molecules of a drug called TRA-8 that are designed to lock onto the death receptors of cancer cells to trigger a cascade of chemical reactions that end with the death of cell. This process is called apoptosis.
Apoptosis is a purposeful process of programmed cell death that we all live with everyday. Since yesterday you’ve lost something like 65 billion cells to apoptosis. When you were a fetus, this programmed cell death occurred strategically between your joined fingers and toes so they would separate into useful digits. When this important biological function goes awry however it can result in atrophy if it happens too much or even cancer if it happens too little.
So, just the right amount of apoptosis is a good thing, but the more we can make it happen to these cthulhu-like cancer cells, the better.
Image Credit: Emiko Paul and Quade Paul from Echo Medical Media, along with Ron Gamble from UAB Insight.