Dr. Dundee Lackey
7 November 2013
Until the Power Shuts Off
The Human Body as a Metropolis
The extraordinarily compact human body is teeming with life at the microscopic level. With so many complex organs, tissues, nooks, and crannies, it is difficult to even guess at the number of cells that make up a single human being. One group of scientists, however, made a rough estimate at an astonishing 37.2 trillion cells (Carl). Even more incredible, this number does not even attempt to account for microbial life within the body, such as bacterial cells. “The number of bacteria living within the body of the average healthy adult human are estimated to outnumber human cells 10 to 1” (“Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria”). With the seemingly infinite amount of life that occurs on the inside, a human body could easily be compared to a large metropolitan city, its inhabitants roaming around in great numbers, working every day, living their lives, and, eventually, dying within. If every microscopic “creature” that lives inside is likened to an individual in a community, then the body is a fascinating, urban city with power systems, highways, traffic, jobs, and shelter.
To Be Inside
Even in considering the body as a large, unified city, the diversity present is spectacular, and this is not all that surprising if one considers the varying natures of different parts of the body. A large portion of the “city” could be considered humid on a tropical level, with some areas being exceptionally arid. Lower populations of outsiders (namely, bacteria) tend to be found in regions with a low pH (those regions that are particularly acidic.) Despite the hostility of some environments and the hustle and bustle within, the city is peacefully dark with minimal ambient light penetrating through parts of its outer fortifications. There isn’t a moment of human life where everything within is still. In a manner of speaking, the live city never sleeps.
The Power House
Sitting on top of all life and movement is the control center, the dictating authority of all things within the city. Sitting on top of all life and movement is… THE BRAIN. It is a three-pound office that instructs each department of the city to fulfill individual purposes (“Your Amazing Brain”). Both government and electrical powerhouse, the brain could not survive without the city, and the city could not survive without the brain. The office of the brain sends and receives sensitive information through employees called neurons. These talented “creatures” can send information to the brain at “more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour” (“Your Amazing Brain”).
The brain and its accompanying nervous system are something to be nervous about for the residents of the body. Aside from its dictator-like, all-powerful control, the brain is the human body’s monopolized source of electrical energy, powering everything within.
Systems of Commute
Among the many local operations controlled by the powerful, authoritative brain, is the transportations network. Briefly mentioned before, the nervous system is an important system of commute used specifically for the movement of information by way of neuron. For example, nerves of the somatic nervous system (which can be differentiated from the autonomic nervous system), “consist of motor nerve fibers that come out of the brain and take the messages for movement and necessary action to the skeletal muscles” (Mandal).
Also involved in transportation is the circulatory system. It can literally be described as a “highway” for travel of the blood (Zimmermann). The “city” has about 60,000 miles of blood vessel “highway.” This complex mass of roads allows travel of living blood cells, carrying along with them “nutrients, oxygen and other gases, and hormones” (Zimmermann). The roads can also transport criminal passengers, trespassing bacteria, in the case of septicemia or, a blood infection.
Strategic Protection Against Enemies
Another system of transportation, the lymphatic system, also serves for commute, a kind of “service road” to the blood vessel “highways.” Aside from just carrying lymph, “excess interstitial fluid and proteins of the blood,” the lymphatic system also operates the “police force” of the body (“Introduction to the Lymphatic System”). Each white blood cell “officer” (also called a leukocyte) helps to attack and kill bacteria in the blood (Dugdale). These invaluable citizens of the community help to prevent “crime” from happening in the “city.” In most bodily “cities,” leukocyte police are aided by lymph nodes which “filter the lymph fluid and remove foreign material such as bacteria and cancer cells” from the body. If the “city police force” turns on the community, however, problems arise.
A Civil War
Usually the white blood cells are armed and ready to attack invaders, but in the case of an autoimmune disease, leukocyte “police” begin to attack the community, rather than actual pathogenic “criminals” within the community (“Understanding Autoimmune Diseases”). Such a diseased community is in great peril, some parts of it literally attacking other parts, as if the body were in a civil war with itself. “Autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including the heart, brain, nerves, muscles, skin, eyes, joints, lungs, kidneys, glands, the digestive tract, and blood vessels” (“Understanding Autoimmune Diseases”). Good bacterial inhabitants can also be destroyed. With so many parts of the city being destroyed, and so many “innocent lives” being taken because of an autoimmune “police-state,” the community may struggle to survive.
The City Sleeps
Autoimmune diseases are just one example of ways that the human body can perish. Typically, this “city” moves in such harmony, all of the pieces fitting together and working together as a community, but the city remains ever-vulnerable. With so many weak points, every human body must pass on eventually. Every growing, living “metropolitan city” of life must discontinue existence. And when the cellular community has ceased to thrive, and the roads shut down, when the citizens turn on each other, and the hustle and bustle slows to a stop, it is then that the power shuts off.
The brain stops working. Commands are no longer sent. Both the community and the inhabitants of the community become lifeless. And as the last sparks of electricity shoot like fire through the body, finally, the lights go off, never to turn on again. The human body is quite a beautiful and fascinating thing, both in function and end. Finally, the city sleeps.
Dugdale, David C. “Lymph System.” MedlinePlus. A.D.A.M., Inc. 2 November 2012. Web. 7 November 2013.
“Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health?” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, LLC. 5 June 2008. Web. 7 November 2013.
“Introduction to the Lymphatic System.” National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute. n.d. Web. 7 November 2013.
Mandal, Ananya. “What is the Nervous System?” News-Medical. News-Medical. n.d. Web. 7 November 2013.
“Understanding Autoimmune Diseases.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. National Institutes of Health. October 2012. Web. 7 November 2013.
“Your Amazing Brain.” National Geographic Kids. National Geographic Society. n.d. Web. 7 November 2013.
Zimmer, Carl. “How Many Cells Are In Your Body?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. 23 October 2013. Web. 7 November 2013.
Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Circulatory System: Facts, Function, and Diseases.” LiveScience. Tech Media Network. 17 August 2012. Web. 7 November 2013.
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