Independent Cells or Cells in Community?

Siddhartha Mukherjee:

But there are still gaps in our understanding of the interconnectedness of cells. We are still living in a world where we imagine the cell, as Leeuwenhoek did, as a “living atom” – unitary, singular, and isolated, a spaceship floating in body-space. Until we leave that atomistic world, we will not know, as the English surgeon Stephen Paget asked, why the liver and spleen are the same size, are anatomical neighbors, possess virtually the same flux of blood – and yet one (the liver) is among the most frequent sites of cancer metastases, while the other (the spleen) rarely has any? Or why patients with certain neurodegenerative diseases – Parkinson’s among them – have a markedly lower risk of cancer. Or why, as Helen Mayberg told me, the patients who describe their depression as an “existential ennui” (her words) typically do not respond to deep brain stimulation, while those that describe themselves as “falling into vertical holes” often do.

The Song of the Cell, p. 363.