November 18, 2002
TRANSCENDENCE:Inside the Womb: What scientists have learned about those amazing first nine months-and what it means for mothers (J. MADELEINE NASH, 11/03/02, TIME)
[T]he marvel of an embryo transcends the collection of genes and cells that compose it. For unlike strands of dna floating in a test tube or stem cells dividing in a Petri dish, an embryo is capable of building not just a protein or a patch of tissue but a living entity in which every cell functions as an integrated part of the whole. "Imagine yourself as the world's tallest skyscraper, built in nine months and germinating from a single brick," suggest Tsiaras and Werth in the opening of their book. "As that brick
divides, it gives rise to every other type of material needed to construct and operate the finished tower--a million tons of steel, concrete, mortar, insulation, tile, wood, granite, solvents, carpet, cable, pipe and glass as well as all furniture, phone systems, heating and cooling units, plumbing, electrical wiring, artwork and computer networks, including software."
Given the number of steps in the process, it will perhaps forever seem miraculous that life ever comes into being without a major hitch. "Whenever you look from one embryo to another," observes Columbia University developmental neurobiologist Thomas Jessell, "what strikes you is the fidelity of the process."
Equally striking--no, appalling--is our lack of fidelity to the process.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2002 7:45 PM