How the Human Body is Recycled and How it is Linked with the Earth

Recycling — everyone might think it’s good


Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

Recycling is necessary to save the earth and our lives.

It’s also true for the human body — our body cells constantly get damaged and deteriorate. Thus, in order to function properly, they must be replaced on a regular basis.

Ever heard of lysosome?

It is a particle that contains lots of lysozyme, one of the enzymes in the human body which dissolves human body waste, such as old glycolipids into tiny sugar, lipids and amino acids. Sugar and lipids are used to produce energy, which happens in cells all over the human body. On the other hand, amino acids are used to make new proteins. Proteins are made through the DNA’s programming, making them function correctly and at certain periods, according to our ancestors’ genetic information. Problems with this enzyme lead to various diseases.

Lysosome works as a part of “Autophagy”, which became popular by Professor Osumi’s work awarded Novel prize in 2016.

⇨see the infographic how lysozome functions in human body. “Infographic: How Autophagy Works”

Recent research found that lysosome complications are associated with cancer development, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic diseases, infections, and so on. The human body is made of 60 trillion cells and an estimated one trillion cells are broken down and replaced everyday. When lysosomes malfunction, dead cells accumulate, preventing normal body processes.

How is this related to the earth?

Hundreds of species, including plants and animals die and are replaced on a daily basis. Before deforestation, an ecosystem works harmoniously. However, as people cut down woods and burn down forests, the environment is placed in a state of chaos. I guess there must also be lots of “lysosomes” in the woods such as insects and bacteria.

Just like lysosomes that recycle dead body materials and turn them into useful molecules, certain fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms in the forest help in recycling by decomposing dead organic matter, making the soil nutrient-rich.

Burning wood is similar to surgery. Cutting the malignant tissue or untreatable lesion through the margin of normal tissue diminishes lysozymes, stem cells (kid cells), growth factors and nutrients. Depending on the location in the body, the part cut may or may not regenerate.

Let me give the liver as an example. Cutting a normally functioning liver by 60% will still lead to its regeneration. However, cutting more than 60% of this organ will result in jaundice, pulmonary edema,accumulation of water in the abdominal cavity, and death due to liver failure.

Some treatments for lysosomal diseases, including lysozyme replenishment, lysozyme function reinforcement, and bone marrow transplant have already been invented. In addition to these, gene therapy is now being tried.

If the human body represents the environment, the body itself is the woods, surgery represents burning woods, while lysosomes are the organisms that aid in recycling.

What about plastic?

There is no suitable “lysosome” for plastic on earth. This is why plastic causes water and air pollution, making humans and animals sick. This is what we urgently need- “lysosomes” for plastic and something that would solve pollution and cure humans’ and animals’ pollution-related sickness.

In my MBA study, my team found some solutions. One of them was a plastic substitute invented by an Indonesian startup that made edible cups from seaweed. The cost is something that still needs to be tackled since this is more expensive than plastic cups.

The next thing we found was a plastic-eating bacteria that secretes an enzyme called PETase which naturally degrades polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

The third approach is culture-based. In our study, we recommended the use of the power of faith. Changing one’s culture is incredibly tough, so we decided to reach out to the head of various Muslim communities in Indonesia.

For “lysosome” to function properly in the environment, these three measures should be taken:

  1. REPLACE plastic with biodegradable substitutes
  2. REINFORCE the methods of decomposition
  3. CHANGE plastic culture

Like in dieting, to solve obesity, you need to REPLACE high-calorie with low-calorie food, REINFORCE your exercises to burn fat faster and CHANGE your eating habits entirely.

Why not solve environmental problems by thinking from different perspectives?

Breast and Thyroid Surgeon, MBA, Master of Disruptive Innovation, Learning Data Science