What are microtubules?

Microtubules are tiny subcomponents of cells.

They are prominant aspects of the skeleton of all eukaryotic cells (being parts of a ubiquitous structure known as the cytoskeleton) - they are the structural and dynamical basis of the cells: for example they mediate cell division.

They may participate in quantum mechanical phenomena which have relevance to biology...

"Microtubules (MTs) are cylindrical protein polymers interconnected by cross bridging proteins (MAPs), which structurally and dynamically organize functional activities in living cells, including synaptic regulation inside of the brain's neurons. They are the most prominent feature of the cytoskeleton, which is at once 1) structural scaffolding of cells, 2) transport system, and 3) onboard computer."

Stuart Hameroff

Microtubules are composed of internetworked "tubulin"

  1. Tubulins are internetworked and undergo "conformational state changes."
  2. The numerology of tubulins and tubes are interesting...

      Do they compute?

      The idea that the cytoskeleton acts as a "computer," is indirectly supported by many observations, including the complex behavior of unicellular creatures such as the paramecium.

      Could the cytoskeleton underlie even consciousness?

      "The role of neurons, in this picture, is perhaps more like a magnifying device in which the smaller-scale cytoskeletal action is transferred to something which can influence other organs of the body - such as muscles."

      Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind p. 376

      Are MTs quantum mechanical?

      The cytoskeleton, and particularly the tube-shaped microtubules and the tubulins, are ideal quantum mechanical resonators (in contrast to bulky cells, for example). Resonance in the cytoskeleton might support, via something like the Frohlich mechanism, the existence of a Bose-Einstein condensate across the brain...

      "To summarize, cytoskeletal microtubules are likely candidates for quantum coherence relevant to consciousness because...
      • Microtubule individual subunit (tubulin) conformations may be coupled to quantum-level events (electron movement, dipole, phonon) in hydrophobic protein regions.

      • Microtubule paracrystalline lattice structure, symmetry, cylindrical configuration and parallel alignment promote long-range cooperativity and order.

      • Hollow microtubule interiors appear capable of water-ordering, waveguide super-radiance and self-induced transparency."

        Stuart Hameroff,
        Quantum Coherence in Microtubules (1994)
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