1996 Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) Convention
Most of us know that plant cells have cell walls made largely of cellulose, but did you know that
animal cells, can make cellulose? Professor Takao Itoh of the Wood Research Institute (a prolific
collaborator with RMB) has found some remarkable cellulose in the tunicates (see,Phylogenetic structural
variation of celluloses in Ascidiacea
Junji Sugiyama, Satoshi Kimura, and Takao Itoh Wood Research Institute, Kyoto
University, Gokasho, Uji, Kyoto 611 Japan
Also of great interest to me is the possibility that HUMANS can synthesize cellulose. This is based on several papers in
the 1960's by Prof. Hall and colleagues in England. More work needs to be done in this area, but it is very interesting
that patients with the disease, Scleroderma, have elevated cellulose levels. I conclude that botanists not having
an interest in medically related diseases, and health-sciences, not interested in cellulose, has resulted in a "mutual
exclusion" of information in this very exciting area of science. Perhaps we will learn more about cellulose genes in
humans, once the genes are cloned and compared in databases.
In the meantime, think of cellulose being essentially univerally distributed throughout all major life forms on earth. This
strongly suggest that cellulose is an ancient molecule and probably had a key role in the evolution of life on earth.
Wouldn't it be interesting if some of the fossilized so-called nanobacteria from Mars might have a cellulosic cell wall!
Something to think about!
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