To say that the body is a complex structure would be the greatest understatement. It’s probably the most complex network ever created in the universe. The other day I was thinking about just one minor aspect of it.
Every cell in the body has a membrane around the outside which acts as a barrier to keep all the cell contents inside, and also a place where the cell can receive communication. In this membrane there are receptors where hormones, neurotransmitters, immune particles can “dock” and this puts a signal into the cell to “do” something.
This membrane is a 3 layered structure. Like a sandwich with two slices of bread on the outside and some meat on the inside. The outer layers of this sandwich are made up of phospholipids. A phospholipid is a structure that has a fat molecule and a phosphorous attached. They sandwich an inner part that is made of cholesterol. The vast majority of cholesterol in the body resides between these two lipid layers. Not only does every cell in the body have this membrane, but so does each structure inside the cell have one. For example, every cell has 1000 to 2000 mitochondria. Each of these has a similar membrane. Cells also have many other structures inside with these same membranes.
I got to thinking about this. How many miles of these membranes are there in one human body?
So, I spent some time with a calculator to get a rough estimate. Each cell in the body has an outer membrane that is about 22 microns in length. A micron is a millionth of a meter. Multiply that number times 100 trillion cells in the body to get the total length of the outer cell membranes and it comes to about 13,670 miles of just outer cell membranes. With the added membranes around structures inside the cell, the number is probably thousands of times this number – in one’s cell membranes are always in flux, being made, remade, injured, and subject to repair when needed. You can also imagine that each cell would have to control its intake of phospholipids and cholesterol so that it can regulate this process.
LDL cholesterol brings the cholesterol, 75% of which is manufactured in the liver, to the cell so it has a supply. When it has excess, HDL cholesterol carries it back to the liver. The balance on this must be pinpoint profound.
What occurs in this system if the person takes a statin drug and cuts the supply of LDL to the cells in half?
Can you imagine there might be a bit of STRESS in every cell in the body when trying to deal with that?
Working with biology is the only long term solution toward health. Sometimes there are dire emergencies where you might have to intervene with something quickly. But usually, using good nutrition, supplements, exercise, and detox, you can work with the body to heal it.
This is our approach at LifeWorks Wellness Center.
Have a great week.
Dr. David I Minkoff, MD