Stat 39

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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