Tuesday, April 8, 2008

DNA Supercoiling as a Pattern for Understanding Psycho-social Twistedness

The review here of twistedness in DNA provides a technical basis for the discussion in the main paper (Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004).

The insights in the main paper regarding "twistedness" reflect an intuitive understanding of complexity which calls for deeper insight to understand how twistedness works and why it may be vitally important in some psycho-social processes -- as well as being highly problematic in others. Part of the difficulty in approaching this matter is that "twistedness" is in most cases used unthinkingly as a pejorative term to characterize a pattern which is felt to inhibit right-thinking and clarity. The argument here is that, given its importance at every scale in nature, from the organization of nebula to the organization of the human cell, there is a case for distinguishing various forms of twistedness and understanding their function. This could be especially valuable to reconciling apparently irreconcilable understandings in society.

The merit of focusing on the nature and function of twisting in DNA is that it provides a rich natural template. It offers a sense of the degree of complexity that it may be required to master in order to comprehend how twistedness "works" in practice. It might also be argued that, as a process active in every human body and inherent to human life, humans may well have some kind of profound intuitive understanding of how it works and the "rightness" of such working. Some of the very explicit dynamics of this process may also offer patterns for understanding how the inhibiting effects of "twistedness" may be addressed when they are perceived to be a constraint on human development.

Understanding of how DNA works has been much enriched by concepts from topology -- as a branch of mathematics that deals with structural properties that are unchanged by deformations such as stretching and bending. This use of mathematics is especially important because there is no experimental way to observe the dynamics of enzymatic action directly, notably with respect to knotting and coiling of DNA (see De Witt Sumners. Lifting the Curtain: Using Topology to Probe the Hidden Action of Enzymes, 1995; Xiaoyan R. Bao, et al. Behavior of Complex Knots in Single DNA Molecules, 2003).

http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs00s/dnahelix.php are very long and thin. There is over a metre of DNA in every human cell in a space of some 0.0006 centimetres diametre. If DNA were constrained to be linear it would not fit into a cell. It must therefore fold many times to fit within the confines of a cell. The DNA is composed of 10** base pairs. This density of packing results in tangles and knots in the DNA that are essential to enable the cell to divide (involving transcription and replication).


No comments: