Tuesday, October 21, 2008

418)The Wonders of Blood: the Foundation of our Existence as Multi-Cellular Creatures; Quotes of Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan III and Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani.

"Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it"(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani,10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971CE, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker)

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"In this context, would it not also be relevant to consider how, above all, it has been the Qur'anic notion of the universe as an expression of Allah's will and creation that has inspired, in diverse Muslim communities, generations of artists, scientists and philosophers? Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'."(Aga Khan IV, Speech, Institute of Ismaili Studies, October 2003, London, U.K.)

"....in Islam, but particularly Shia Islam, the role of the intellect is part of faith. That intellect is what seperates man from the rest of the physical world in which he lives.....This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives. Of that I am certain"(Aga Khan IV, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, August 17th 2007)

The above are 6 quotes and excerpts from Blogpost Four Hundred:

October 21, 2008

The Wonders of Blood


You’re born with a little over a pint of it, by adulthood you’re up to four or five quarts, and if at any point you suddenly shed more than a third of your share, you must either get a transfusion or prepare to meet your mortician.

Human cultures have long recognized that blood is essential to life and have ascribed to it a vast array of magical powers and metaphorical subroutines. Blood poultices and blood beverages were said to cure blindness, headaches, gout, goiter, worms and gray hair. The Bible mentions blood more than 400 times, William Shakespeare close to 700. It’s “all in the blood,” your temperament, your fate. Are you a blue-blooded Mesopotamian princess or a red-blooded American male?

Yet to scientists who study blood, even the most extravagant blood lore pales in comparison to the biochemical, evolutionary and engineering marvels of the genuine article.

The fluid tissue we call blood not only feeds us and cleans us, delivering fresh oxygen and other nutrients to all 100 trillion cells of the body and flushing out carbon dioxide, ammonia and other metabolic trash. It not only houses the immune system that defends us against the world.

Our blood is the foundation of our very existence as multicellular animals, said Andrew Schafer, a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and the outgoing president of the American Society of Hematology. Blood is the one tissue that comes into contact with every other tissue of the body, and it is through blood that our disparate parts communicate, through blood that our organs cooperate. Without a circulatory system, there would be no internal civilization, no means of ensuring orderly devotion to the common cause that is us.

“It’s an enormous communications network,” Dr. Schafer said — the original cellphone system, if you will, 100 trillion users strong.

Blood can also be thought of as a private ocean, a recapitulation of what life was like for all the years we spent drifting as microscopic, single-celled organisms, “taking up nutrients from sea water and then eliminating waste products back into sea water,” Dr. Schafer said. Not only is blood mostly water, but the watery portion of blood, the plasma, has a concentration of salt and other ions that is remarkably similar to sea water.

Of course, we can’t rely on wind and weather to keep our hidden seas salubriously churned and aerated, so we have evolved an active respirator and pumping mechanism, the lungs and heart. Our eight pints of blood circulate through the powerhouse duet maybe 60 times an hour, absorbing recently inhaled oxygen from the honeycombed fabric of the lungs and proceeding into the thickly muscled heart, which then shoots the enriched fluid outward.

Oxygen allocation is the task of the red blood cells, which hematology researchers refer to with a mix of affection and awe. “Red cells have enormous capabilities,” said Stanley Schrier of Stanford University’s School of Medicine. They give up so much to make room for their hemoglobin, the proteins that can latch onto oxygen and that give blood its brilliant grenadine sheen. Alone among body cells, red cells at maturity jettison their nucleus and DNA to accommodate their cargo.

And oh how roughly they are treated. A red cell at rest looks like a plump bialy and measures about 8 microns, or .0003 inches, across. Yet to reach every far-flung, oxygen-hungry customer, the cells must squeeze through capillaries less than half their width, which they accomplish by squashing down into threads that then crawl in single file along the capillary wall, pulling themselves forward, Dr. Schrier said, like tank treads gripping the road.

Blood is also a genius, able to sustain two contradictory states without going mad. To ceaselessly shuttle along the body’s 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries, blood must be fluid, our trusty souvenir sea.

Yet even though we constantly replace components of our blood, directing the aged and the battered to the spleen and liver — the “graveyards for blood cells,” Dr. Schafer said — and replenishing them with fresh blood cells forged in the bone marrow, the turnover cycle is gradual and we can’t afford to lose everything in one big gush wrought by a predator’s gash. Blood, then, departs from sea water, or, for that matter, from breast milk, another prized body fluid, in one outstanding way: it is always poised to clot, to relinquish liquidity and assume solidity.

In deciding whether to flow or clot, blood takes its cues from its surroundings. As blood glides through the bulk of its tubular circuitry, the comparatively heavy red cells are driven toward the center of the swirl, said James N. George, a hematologist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, while two other, lighter characters are pushed out to the periphery: the white blood cells that operate as immune warriors, and the platelets, tiny cells that have been called the Band-Aids of the body. Their marginalization is no accident. “They’re surveillance cells,” Dr. George said. “It’s almost like they’re scouting for trouble.”

White blood cells look for signs of invasive microbes, while platelets scan for leaks. As long as the platelets detect the Teflon-like surface of unbroken endothelium, the tissue with which blood vessels are lined, they keep moving.

But even the tiniest cut or gap in the smooth vessel wall will expose some of the fibrous strands beneath, and the platelets are primed to instantly detect the imperfection. A passing platelet will stick to the raggedy strand and change shape, from round to octopoid, which in turn attracts other platelets, forming a little clump. “If the cut is small, that’s all you need,” Dr. George said. If not, the next phase of flood control begins. Signals from the platelets arouse the blood’s clotting factors, free-floating proteins that can cross-link together into bigger, better Band-Aids.

“Platelets and clotting factors,” Dr. Schrier said. “It’s a marriage made in heaven.”

Up to a point. Just as our immune cells can go awry and begin attacking our own body tissue, so an overzealous clot response can have dire consequences. Should a clot happen to cut off blood flow to a vital organ like the heart or brain, the only one playing the harp will be you.


Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)