In the nineteenth century, life was rough.
It was especially rough if you saw it through the lens of famed American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is credited as being one of the most influential horror writers of all time. He is known for his dark, gothic look at families, relationships, guilt, and love.
One reason that literary experts believe Poe’s tales to be so dark is because of the darkness and pain that was rampant in his own life. Nearly every woman that he loved – from his mother to his sisters to his wife – was all taken ill by tuberculosis.
He had to watch, helpless, as each of them in turn sickened and then died. At the time, there were no treatments for tuberculosis, sometimes abbreviated as TB. The first sign would usually be a drop of blood that emerged during a routine coughing fit.
By that time, the damage was already done. There was no going back. Treatment and diagnosis of the illness were virtually nonexistent.
Although we value the works of Edgar Allan Poe even to this day, there is no reason any longer why anyone should have to go through what he went through. Through histology, it is possible to diagnose diseases like tuberculosis early and begin to implement treatment.
One of the ways to do this is through an acid fast staining technique that applies particularly to acid-fast bacteria.
An acid-fast bacteria is the term for an organism that is protected from acids traditionally used in histology to stain cells in order to see them clearer.
Histology is just the technical term for the study of structures that requires the use of a microscope. The study is done to serve many purposes. These can include research, treatment, and diagnostic applications.
It is frequently used in cancer research to help determine the mutation of a group of cells.
Break on Through
At this point you may be asking yourself, if a cell is resistant to traditional stains, how can it be studied and photographed?
You may already know that an acid-fast structure has a different chemical compound than other similar cells. That is because it has more layers of protection to keep outside invaders from entering its structure.
Around the cell wall of these compounds, you can expect to find a number of different materials that are beneficial to blocking early attempts at staining. These include complex lipids, waxes, fatty acids, and mycolic acid. Together, these materials create an effective barrier to protect the cell.
The only way to combat this combination is through a specific set of scientific steps.
A lipid-soluble stain is the first thing in the researcher’s arsenal. This helps to break down the waxy outer wall of the target cell.
After applying the stain, then the researcher must wash the culture. This gets rid of any extraneous cells that are not acid-fast, leaving behind only the target cells. Click the link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537121/ to learn more about this process.
Finally, these remaining cells are given a second stain. It reacts one way with the target cells and another with any outsiders that remain. From here on out, it is immediately visible through a microscope which cells are the relevant cells of interest and which are not.
From this stained culture, a doctor or researcher would be able to diagnose a patient, continue on with their research, or even possibly discover something new.
What is Lac Operon?
Now we come to the second part of our titular question.
Now that we know how histology can be applied in order to treat disease, let’s take a look at Lac Operon and what role it plays to help us understand this better.
Lac operon sounds like something you might wear out for a night out on the town.
And if you were going for a night on the town, sure, you would bring some along.
That’s because lac operon is the scientific name for a chemical that helps to break down the sugar complex called lactose. You may recognize this name because it is the sugar compound found in milk. Many people from all around the world are lactose intolerant, which means they are unable to break down the sugars in lactose.
Anywhere where cows are not native, there is a high probability of finding a lactose intolerant population. For example, Jewish people, who traditionally hail from the desert, are often not able to digest dairy, cow’s milk in particular.
The discovery of the lac operon was a turning point in medical science because it was the first genetic regulatory mechanism that was understood by scientists. Its discovery eventually led to a Nobel Prize for the intrepid scientists who uncovered it. Click here for more information about this discovery.
Now that you know a little bit more about this process, you’re ready for your next cocktail party!