Bipolar hermaphroditism of somatic cell as the basis of its being and becoming: celldom appreciated.ML Kothari, L Mehta
Department of Anatomy, Seth G.S. Medical College, Mumbai-400 012, India. , India
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None PMID: 12432206
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Keywords: Animal, Cell Division, physiology,Cell Lineage, Germ Cells, cytology,Hermaphroditism, genetics,physiopathology,Human, Meiosis, Sensitivity and Specificity, Terminology, Variation (Genetics),
“Our planet has the wrong name. Our ancestors named it Earth, after the soil they found all around them …. If the ancients had known what the earth was really like, they would undoubtedly have named it Oceanus after the tremendous areas of water that cover 70.8 percent of its surface”. The modern humans, knowing that the earth is the only place in the entire universe that can boast of an entity called cell, could do better by renaming or additionally naming earth as the planet Cytos. The Orwellian red light that thought corrupts language and vice versa has its antithesis in innovative language expanding human thought and vice versa.
The term cell was rather unpoetically conceived by Hooke in 1665 while viewing the spaces in a piece of dry cork. Partridge, the ace etymologist, traces cell to hall, being synonymous with cellar, hell, hole, with Webster going one worse by synonymising it with grave and Roget matching the same by equating cell with jail or prison.
From the time it evolved 3 billion years ago, the cell has remained unchanged in its omniscience and omnipotence manifestly enshrined in DNA, D signifying Development, or Brahma, N nurture or Vishnu and A annihilation or Shiva, thus meriting its equivalence with GOD that Generates, Operates and Destroys. The Greek concept of cosmos as signifying supreme order finds its configuration as cell that can rightly be called CosMos, the Mos representating Maternally organised self, and Cos its Contrarily (hence paternally) organised self. Biology, comprising microbial / phytal / animal kingdoms orchestrates its entire play using a single player, called the cell that like the Lord in Indian scriptures proudly declares Eko aham bahusyam, I am one, I become many. The amazingly immeasurable versatility of this entity called cell forces upon us some poetry to acronymise it as Cosmic Ensemble Labelled Life, a bipolar unit that can be called CosMos. The compelling bipolarity of a cell is reason enough to rename cell as CosMos, governing as it does cell structure, function, and gametisation as well as replication.
A cell is what it is, for it does what it does, and it does what it does, for it is what it is. This definitional circumlocution deserves its inspiration from the way matter was attemptedly defined in the 1960s. The circumlocution is helpful in elucidating the why of what a cell is, and the how of what a cell does. Towards that end, let us analyse some of the outstanding features of a cell.
“The evidence strongly affirms that all life on Earth descended via this branching process from a common ancestor. That is, every person, every animal and plant, every invisible bacterium, can be traced back to the same tiny microbe that lived billions of years ago, and thence back to the first living thing.
“The living cell is the most complex system of its size known to mankind. Its host of specialised molecules, many found nowhere else but within living material, are themselves already enormously complex. They execute a dance of exquisite fidelity, orchestrated with breathtaking precision. Vastly more elaborate than the most complicated ballet, the dance of life encompasses countless molecular performers in synergetic coordination. Yet this is a dance with no sign of a choreographer. No intelligent supervisor, no mystic force, no conscious controlling agency swings the molecules into place at the right time, chooses the appropriate players, closes the links, uncouples the partners, moves them on. The dance of life is spontaneous, self-sustaining and self-creating”.
The foregoing poesy and eulogy aren’t the prerogative only of an Einsteinean cell, but are fully deserved by the first bug that inhabited the earth. British biologists have discovered the Methuselah Bug that as the world’s oldest creature has lived up to 260 million years, and is rightly called the “Mother of all life forms”. The much-sung Vedic attributes of Brahman as smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest are readily seen in celldom’s range from Methuselah bug to the blue whale of 100 tons. The genius enshrined in both is identicall, their manifestations only seemingly different.
Such Vishnuesque versatility of cell cannot reside in a cell’s materiality, for a cell is hardly any matter. If the whole earth when reduced to pure mass measures no more than “the size of a Ping-Pong ball”, then a cell that needs 100 of its members in a file to measure a mm. can really be no matter. A cell’s consistent unchanging selfsameness from the time of creation, allows it be qualified as a fundamental bioforce of Nature, best called Biomattergy, short for Biological Matter-n-energy, that is as fundamental as a light wave, and like it, behaving both as matter-n-energy.
A cell’s mind /heart is the nucleus which is but 2% of the cell’s volume which by itself is unimaginably tiny. Cytoinformatics decree that the DNA of any cell is triscient, endowed with the total history of biology backwards, and forwards to see to it that a particular cell asserts its individualality, its uniqueness. Therefore in terms of sheer knowledge content, a cell behaves like a microchip, a nuclear feature that has its perfect bipolar mirror image in the cytoplasm. The Indian concept of trikalgnan or tritimensional knowledge is effortlessly exhibited by the minutest microbe. It’s been said that the difference between E. coli and Einstein is too small, and that between E. coli and the supermost computer is too big, albeit in favour of the knowledgeability of the cell. Lewis Thomas to illustrate the genius of a cell, suggests a wager: In the intestine of the white ant is a symbiont micro-organism Myxotricha paradoxical. He implores that the world’s atomic warheads be linked to a computer that would fire them all the moment science knows all about the microbe. Thomas hastens to assure that, even a 1000 years from now after 1000 years of work, the computer read-out will be: “More information, please!”
In the paradox of a cell’s dividing so that it can multiply, microscopists discern chromosomal choreography played on thready spindles, hence called mitosis, from mitos = thread. To what the chromosomes do, the myriad cytoplasmic structures generally called organelles follow, at such remarkable precision and speed that the whole drama in its ease and rhythm resembles the effortless replication of electromagnetic waves. “In a way DNA acts as cell’s god, a designation appropriately spelled out in the Latin word deo, which forms the first three letters of deoxyribonucleic acid. And, godlike, it broadcasts its omnific decrees at electronic speed through a technique so intricate and awesome.”
If all the tightly wound DNA in even a single cell nucleus of your body were uncoiled and the pieces laid end to end, the invisible genetic thread would extend five feet, which would make the DNA in all your 50 trillion cells stretch out 50 billion miles or enough to reach to the moon and back 100,000 times. The gastro-intestinal track exfoliates in 22 days a cell number equal to the entire cell population of the human body. So just the gastro-intestinal tract manufactures 2.25 billion miles of genetic thread in a day, a feat that can only happen if the cell’s choreography works at the speed of light. A cell, then, is a configured wavedom.
Rounding up, one can say that a cell comprises a trinity of immeasurable knowledge and communication stretching over areas of space-time, a materiality of nucleus and cytoplasm, both exhibiting the greatest complexity in the whole universe, and a speed of working that reminds you more of electromagnetism than anything else. Just as God makes no mistake, a cell actually never does. It is the highest state of configured order, a true CosMos. Between the ever-expanding macrocosmos and the microcosmos of atomic particles and superstrings, a cell represents a perfect in-between and rightly merits the appellation CosMos. CosMos is then no longer a mere concept but a palpable reality visible, experimentable, culturable and with all that, totally inscrutable.
It is time to essay a definition of cell, which prima facie, is little matter and a lot of mind. A Dictionary of Science defined matter as “A specialised form of energy which has the attributes of mass and extension in space and time”. The foregoing permits de-mattering a cell. A cell, then, is cosmically configured constellation of energies with eminent attributes of electromagnetism and thus of bipolarity, wherein the mind or information content of the cell asserts its uninterrupted continuity with life’s total past, total present and total future by manifest uniqueness of form and function, thus illustrating, amongst many others, the principle of (Lovejoy’s) Great Chain of Being, and the TITE axiom that through Total Inclusion a cell achieves Total Exclusion,  to beget its unfailing uniquation. An ordinarily labelled “Spheroidal cell carcinoma of the stomach” is what it is through its effortless communication with all spheroidal cell stomach cancers of the total human past, present and future, a cosmicality that is, alas, too large, to be amenable to the hopeless locality of all forms of cancer treatment.
Isaac Asimov, the most prolific science-writer, pointed that the universe is electrostatically neutral for there is as much negative charge as there is positive. Magnetically too, the universe must be neutral, there being as many N poles as S poles. These, and other such, polar-opposites are more truly polar-apposites. Without one, the other is naught. Each polar-apposite evokes, gives meaning to, balances the other, their co-operative symphony begetting the manifest universe. In the epochal Einsteinean equation E = MC2, the C stands for the unflagging constancy at which “light” and all other electromagnetic radiations travel. This C owes itself to the polar-appositeness of particle /wave that comprise light, the yin of which begets yang and vice versa, on and on, till eternity. All this is through the divine faculty of pairacity of a template begetting its polar-apposite. The electronic spin in an atom and the alacrity with which the DNA double-helix duplicates itself are all an outcome of the duet sung by polar-apposites, each pair representing so to say, the Ardha-Nar-Narishwar or the HermAphrodite.
The burden of this article is to propose that much as the duplication of the bihelical DNA is interplay between the Pa-helix and the Ma-helix, all components of the cytoplasm play a similar game to provide rapidity of cell-multiplication, with assured Total Fidelity to the original. The oxymoronic synonyms, namely cell-division is cell-multiplication are rooted in confused concepts that merit clarification.
Does the cell divide to multiply or multiply to divide? An unhurried look at the divine choreography called mitosis universally reveals that the cell first multiplies not only nuclearly but, pari passu cytoplasmically. The cell Siamese-twins itself to double all its components, as it were, from cell’s head to foot. Thereafter, the twins “divide” to beget 2 cells. The holy indifference accorded to cytoplasm in all descriptions on mitosis is traceable to its nebulousness that refuses to lend itself to microscopic studies. Much of cytology is nucleology for the nucleus is, now and again, dense enough to be describable. When it is not, cytologists do not mind giving it a short shrift even when the nucleus is at its functional best: “The interphase (or postmitotic or nonmitotic) nucleus is of great biological significance, as demonstrated by biochemists and others. Yet, cytologically, it is not very exciting. The chromosomes can hardly be seen or studied and the nucleus just sits there, as observably inactive as a sleeping dog and as static as the old term for this nuclear condition, ‘resting stage’, indicates”.
Much of microscopic cytology is nucleism that concentrates on the nucleus to the point of neglecting the cytoplasm. And much of nucleism is mitotism that takes advantage of the dysfunctional condensation of the cell’s DNA to form compact identifiable chromosomes whose irrelevance even vis-à-vis mitosis was summed up by Mazia 4 decades ago: “The role in mitosis of the chromosome arms, which carry most of the genetic material, may be compared with that of a corpse at the funeral; they provide the reason for the proceedings but do not take an active part in them”. The whole science of karyotyping that has now culminated into the Human Genome Project is a science of chromosomal shapes and sizes that are irrelevant to the actual workings of any cell.
Nuclear transplantation experiments have assigned primacy to the cytoplasm with the nucleus playing a second fiddle. Sans cytoplasm, nucleus fails to survive; cytoplasm can carry on all alone for months together., The most galling point against nuclear supremacy is Dolly-making, or cloning whose success demands the ovular cytoplasm as the indispensable sine qua non. You could do away with the nucleus of the ovum, of the zygote, as also with the sperm itself as far as the ovular cytoplasm is given a diploid nucleus of the same species. If one were to search for the most informed / evolved cell, one need not look beyond the cytoplasm of an ovum that alone carries the entire blueprint of a worm or a whale. Vive le cytoplasm.
A glaring semantic error characterising the cytoplasm versus nucleus controversy is the prefixial inconsistency of having 83 terms beginning with cyto, meaning the whole cell in 82, and connoting cell-minus-the nucleus in the single exception cytoplasm. This indefensible lexical laxity is correctable by logically matching nucleus / nucleoplasm / kerneloplasm versus periplasm / ambiplasm (from L.ambire = go around; hence e.g. ambience) / matriplasm. Simply put, nucleoplasm plus periplasm = cytoplasm.
Dynamics of Cell Division, representing Frontiers in Molecular Biology is a learned tome dealing with mitosis and meiosis. The many chapters render a few points clear: Firstly, during cell replication, the distinction between nucleoplasm and periplasm gets blurred; there is pancytoplasmic duplication comprising both nucleoplasm and periplasm; there is electromagnetic precision and rapidity; there are special motors mediating the various phases; there is enough of distinct polarity to allow the concept of cytoduplication by induction.
What is meant by induction? Induction is Nature’s universal mechanism of begetting by appositing. Put simply, Yin when parted from its apposite Yang, refuses to survive without Yang which is induced afresh, and the parted Yang induces Yin so that you end up with 2 pairs of Yin-Yang, whereas you started with a single pair. A positive charge induces negative charge and vice versa, a magnetic north pole induces south pole and vice versa. When the 2 helices of the double–helix-DNA part, the Ma-helix induces Pa-helix and vice versa, so that DNA duplication occurs with electromagnetic ease and effortlessness. Going more subtle, Adenine induces Thymine and vice versa, and cytosine induces Guanine and vice versa. Ditto holds true for the Ma and Pa components comprising the entire periplasm (cytoplasm). After the nucleus and the periplasm have doubled or twinned themselves, the twins part to beget 2 cells in place of one. Even at the cell / nucleus / periplasm / DNA / organelle level, Nature has acted smart, taking a cue from electromagnetism, thus bringing a cell and electromagnetism in line with each other and with all such other inductive processes in the universe.
A cell is the smallest protoplasmic unit capable “of performing all the fundamental functions of life”, that is “capable of independent reproduction” being “the unit of all living organisms which is capable of independent survival.” The ostensibly mythological but intuitively correct apposite-pairing of yin-yang in the Chinese ethos and the yoni-lingam in the Indian ethos, as also the Indian concept of Ardhanaranarishwar (God/ human as half male and half female) is traceable to a cell whose apposite-polarity allows it to function in interphase, and twin in mitosis. The gametes ovum and sperm on account of their haploidy and hence unipolarity are the most non-functional cells that are biological dead ends, manufacturing no proteins and incapable of dividing despite being endowed with enough of double-helical DNA., 
Meiosis, the biologically entrenched term, is from Gr. meioun = lessen and meion = less and is etymologically closely related to the term minor. This Greek word means lessening and denote the figure of speech, litotes (meaning “understatement”). In 1887 Weismann foresaw that prior to the union of ovum and sperm there must be a halving of the elements of each germ plasm. This hypothesis proved to be correct and the term meiosis was later applied to the reduction division.
The term, as old as Hippocrates, has the obvious demerit of rendering very precise halving to the indeterminate state of lessening or reduction. Now that the Weismannean intuition of halving of chromosomal complement of a somatic cell has been established as a principle, why not call meiosis as haploidising division or, simply, haploidisation? It tells what needs to be told.
Haploidisation is then to make 2n into n plus n, thus rendering the bipolar 2n into two unipolar n’s. Hence an alternative term to haploidisation is unipolarisation, a neologism that serves to emphasize the bipolar nature of all somatic cells zygote-onwards.
Hitherto all descriptions on meiosis have failed to emphasize the next most important feature of haploidisation, namely de-parenting. To ensure the Darwinian vertical descent with variation whereby no child is denied individuality free of parental dominance, haploidisation involves crossing over whereby Pa-chromosomes intercourse with Ma-chromosomes to richly exchange genetic material so that the resultant gametes no longer resemble the parental somatic oogonium or spermatogonium they came from. “The total possible number of chromosome arrangements due to reassortment in meiosis alone is 2, which is more than 8x10. Further rearrangement takes place because of crossingover, so it is not surprising that individual zygotes from the same parents are never alike genetically”. The individuation or uniquation that every offspring exhibits is not only by differing from all the siblings but also both the parents. Meiosis deserves to be renamed de-parenting haploidisation/unipolarisation. The very term puts an end to the myth of heredity. It also puts an end to the myth of cloning, for how do you get a clone if no two ova agree to be identical genetically!
Fertilisation: The process of union of two germ cells whereby the somatic chromosome number is restored and the development of a new individual is initiated in animals typically involving penetration of large passive female cell by a smaller active male cell followed by completion of the maturation of the female cell and by fusion of the haploid gamete pronuclei to form a diploid synkaryon within a new initially unicellular zygote.
Typical of Webster, the above definition is as perfect as it can be: Two unipolar haploids – ovum and sperm – meet to beget a diploid cell or a synkaryon. The classical passivity of the ovum, however, is demolished when one watches “the anomalous sex of sea horses, where she injects ova into him, and he gives birth”. So, it is safe to say that in fertilisation, the sperm fertilises the ovum, and vice versa.
The term fertilise/-sation is rooted in L ferre and Skt.bharati both related to bear and meaning to carry or bring forth. To fertilise means “to apply compost, manure or commercial fertiliser in order to supply nutrients”, none of which avails in the union of two gametes. The arrival of Dolly-making or cloning has rendered the sperm highly dispensable, provided the indispensable condition of the diploidy of the ovum is somehow maintained or restored. The true aim of fertilisation, then, is diploidisation or bipolarisation. It is chastising for the male-of-the-human-species in general and all the human-sperms in particular, that (the so-called) paternality rides piggyback on the indispensable but otherwise non-specific process of diploidisation.
In parthenogenesis, the ovum has a nucleus that is bipolar or diploid to start with and hence proceeds to offspring-making sans any sperm. In cloning, the ovum is first made to lose its haploid nucleus and then a diploid one from any somatic cell is put into it to beget Dolly and its likes. In ordinary mating or in IVF, the haploid sperm meets the haploid ovum, to diploidise the cytoplasm and beget an offspring. So the bottom line, truly, is diploidisation or bipolarisation, and not, fertilisation.
The merit of the new terms diplodisation and bipolarisation lies in underscoring the haploidy of the gametes and the resultant diploidy of the zygote and all cells that follow. It also emphasizes the oppositeness / appositeness of the male and female gametes who individually can not function but meet to abolish their haploid individuality and to beget a typical, functioning bipolar cell that once again must eventually haploidise itself to ensure the so-called continuity of the germplasm.
The terms haploidisation / unipolarisation for gametogenesis and diploidisation / bipolarisation for fertilisation are truly pregnant neologisms that convey far more than their immediate meanings. The fertilise / fertilisation is a semantic error, that needs to be corrected.
This is an ICE age – one of Information Communication and Entertainment, all dependent on engramming an audio or videotape or a floppy / CD or the hard disc of a computer. All these are dependent on their working on the bipolarity of the ferromagnetic material they carry. A tape / floppy / disc begets its twin by its information-content–and–corresponding–bipolarity inducing the same in another as yet blank counterpart. The templating and the end-product are abstract or informational and not, so to speak, material or formational.
A cell has been a few billion years ahead of the infotech revolution. It works on bipolarity, twins itself through bipolarity, but the major difference from the infotech extravaganza is that the whole process of induction is not only informational but also formational. When any cell twins itself, the duplication is both in terms of information as well as structure, abstract as well as concrete.
Let us say we are witnessing the multiplication of a liver cell or a cancer cell. Each of them is bipolar nucleoperiplasmically comprising Pa-components and Ma-components, with the cell-specific information in between, much like between the positively and negatively charged ferromagnetic particles of any electronic recording device. When such a cell wants to multiply, it separates the Pa-components from the Ma-components, within the confines of a single cell. Each Pa-component induces as if from nowhere, not only the structural Ma-components but through the information it carried, the complementary information to beget information typical of the original liver cell or cancer cell. Each Ma-component likewise induces the Pa-component, and you now have two twins juxtaposed. When they part through so-called cell fission, two cells are born. Cell duplication is complete.
When a somatic cell wishes to sexualise itself, it gives up its bipolarity to end up in unipolar cells that, finding the sexual opposite and fusing with it, restore bipolarity to start somatogenesis all over again.
The lightening speed with which all electronics work is used with equal felicity by any “primitive” cell. The seemingly long time that the fastest multiplying cell takes is because not only should information double, but the machine itself should double its innumerable parts. The whole process is, to borrow Churchill’s words, “a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma”, but perhaps there is a key. That key is “the concept of bipolarity” of a somatic cell that has all the features of male verses female, positive charge verses negative charge, yin verses yang, north magnetic pole verses south magnetic pole. Bipolarly, the cell is somatic and functional. Unipolarly, the cell is gametic and non-functional. The game is too subtle to allow the science of biology to know beyond that. No wonder, Albert Szent-Gyorgii, when asked to define a cancer cell, declared that he could not because he did not know what is a normal cell. A cell, any cell, normal or cancerous, is what it is for it does what it does, and it does what it does, for it is what it is.
The conceptual solution to the cellsameness of all cells - beginning with the very first cell that Nature spawned billions of years ago, coupled with the individuality of every single cell, compounded by its structural and functional complexity, and heightened by the speed and precision with which cells can duplicate themselves - is the concept of bipolarity, which in any case dominates the whole inanimate universe. This establishes the selfsameness between inanimate and animate universes which is consistent with the Vedic concept of Advaita. The inanimate animate dichotomy lies in the eyes of the beholder.