See-Think-Believe

  • Issue 72 / November - December 2009



    It's me Peter, your Skin!

    Irfan Yilmaz

    Peter! For some time now you have been hearing from the organs in your body who have been telling you about themselves, their importance, and about how miraculously they have been created. However, their main goal, in addition to telling you about themselves, was to draw your attention to God Almighty, His boundless knowledge and the infinite meaning in everything He does. Now, it is time to open a window from within your body to the outside world.

    I am the barrier between your body and the outer world and I am responsible for this area. I can sense every change in the outer world, including heat, cold, humidity, pressure, various radiations, and the effects of many harmful chemicals and physical phenomena. When I become aware of the presence of something that is harmful, I warn your organs to act according to these changing conditions. That is why everybody knows me primarily as a sense organ.

    However, in addition to being a sense organ, I have many other important duties; however, if I were to list them here, this article would take up the entire magazine. In order to ensure your good health I have to carry out my duties, be they aesthetic, protective or metabolic, perfectly. Even if you only examine my appearance, you will see how beautiful I am. You should visit an anatomy laboratory one day and watch the medical students performing an autopsy. Examine the cadaver whose skin has been pulled back to allow the students to study the internal organs. Look, if you can! Although the body is miracle, if the skin is not present, it would lose its splendor and become ugly and horrible. The beauty and meaningful existence of all the other organs are only complete with me. Our Lord God Almighty has created me and dressed you with me as a garment that fits each part of your body. He has lined your palms and soles with a thick outer lining made of keratin; this enables you to walk and use some hand tools easily. If on the foot or hand I were as thin as I am in the lip area, then I would easily get punctured and injured while walking or using a tool. God has created special joints where your fingers and toes join the feet and hands. These joints allow your fingers, hands and feet to move in many different ways. In order to protect your head from the sun and cold God has changed some of my cells into hair and has given it the ability to grow constantly. God also protects your eyes with special hairs that we call eyelashes and eyebrows. With these He also completes the beauty of your face. However, these do not grow constantly like the hair on our heads. Just think, otherwise you would have to trim both your eyebrows and eyelashes everyday in order to see. The special hairs in your nose and ears help prevent the entry of harmful particles, like dust or harmful microorganisms. You may think “How important is that? Just a few strands of hair?” Of course, hair is not the most important thing of all, but is life nothing more than staying alive? Of course not! There is also an aesthetic aspect to life. We can understand this if we look at a person who has no eyebrows or eyelashes! Certainly, God has made human beings beautiful creations and the hair is an important part of this beauty. As with everything He does, the significance of the hair is much more meaningful than when first seen.

    In addition to my aesthetic beauty, I should also tell you about my protective functions. My first and most vital job is to balance the level of liquid in your body and to prevent its loss. The liquid level and the amount of minerals inside your body are very important. If it were not for me your kidneys would not be able to regulate the level of these liquids. It is for this reason that people who have burns that take up two-thirds of their skin or more cannot live; the water loss in their bodies is too great. In burn care centers, they try to control the loss of liquids using very sensitive devices; however, with serious burns this is usually unsuccessful. My protective functions are not limited to liquids; I also protect your body from all kinds of bacteria, funguses and viruses. As you know, your skin can get inflamed and infected from even a thorn. If the skin becomes damaged or broken over a large area you could face serious infections. This is because if I am not present many microorganisms will invade your body and make you ill.

    Your body is very sensitive to heat and cold. The temperature of your inner body normally should be between 370C and 38 0C (96.8 0F and 98.6 0F); if it increases above this temperature, then you are unwell. If you remain for a long time in cold conditions and your inner body temperature falls off, many of your organs, especially the lungs, stomach, and kidneys are damaged and cannot work properly. You could die if the temperature is too low for too long. And in contrast, if you stay too long in the heat and your inner body temperature increases, your nervous system can be damaged, as the brain is very sensitive. Then your heart and other organs will start to fail, which eventually results in death. Indeed, human beings live everywhere, from the deserts to the poles and everywhere people are able to maintain an inner core temperature that is constant between 96.8 0F and 98.6 0F. I play a very important part in this system. Although the main control center is the brain, it acts according to stimuli that I send and I carry out important functions when the brain responds to these stimuli. Later, I will tell you how I can both warm and cool you.

    Before telling you about my other functions, I would also like to tell you about my structure, which appears quite basic from the outside. Of course, I am not simply a cover that wraps your flesh. First of all, I am a living organ that is being nourished, that grows, that is repaired and which is very flexible. As I get rid of dead cells, I replace them with new ones; I am aware of everything that happens in my surroundings and I allow you to feel the world around you. I consist of two major layers: the epidermis (outmost layer) and the dermis (the inner level). The visible layer, the epidermis, consists of cells that gradually die off and stiffen. Those cells are toughened with a protein called keratin which is absorbed inside their structure; everyday I shed dead skin cells. This is part of the “dirt” that is removed from your body with every shower. This outer layer contains bacteria, funguses or other parasites that have been transmitted from the outside world and which may cause diseases. These parasites are removed as the dead skin cells are shed. The innermost layer (stratum germinativum) of the epidermis has a great capacity for cell division and it constantly produces new cells from the bottom to the outermost level. These cells start out life as cylinders, but as they move towards the outer surface they become cubical and then flatten out. At the same time keratin is being produced in those cells, and as a result they stiffen and start to die off. When the cells arrive at the outermost level, they are already dead. Some of those dead cells do not fall off. They accumulate and combine to make up the structures that we call nails and calluses. In this way the cells protect those areas that are most sensitive or most often used.

    You will be surprised to see what great biological activities take place in the epidermis. Even when a person dies, this layer does not die right away. After death the nails and beard continue to grow. This occurs because of the activities in the germinative epithelium, which makes up the basal layer of the epidermis.

    Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, a relatively thick layer. This is the layer which keeps the skin lively and firm and which produces the color. Many works of arts are present in this layer to complete my splendid structure. This layer consists of connective tissue with fiber bundles that is made of collagen protein. As people get older, their skin dries up and starts to lose its collagen proteins. Once the fibers start to decrease, I lose my firmness, and then I start to wrinkle. Although people are not happy with wrinkles, which are inevitable, I don’t think this is something to worry about; wrinkles are also a sign of maturity and experience. In the structure of my dermis there are other parts that have very important functions: The sweat glands, which are in the shape of coiled tubes, spread throughout the body act as ventilators; in addition, the hair follicles, the sebaceous gland, which helps to nourish and moisturize the hair, the chromatophores (pigment-containing cells) that determine the skin color, the hair muscles that give your hair flexibility and the blood vessels that nourish me are all important. I also have special receptor cells that can sense temperature, pressure and pain and there are nerve endings scattered among these cells.

    In different parts of the body I am more sensitive to particular sensations. My sense receptors (corpuscles) vary in shape and you human beings have named them after the scientists who discovered them. There is Pacini’s corpuscle, Meissner’s corpuscle, Ruffini’s corpuscle and Krause’s corpuscle. Each of those receptors is thought to be receiving independent stimuli, but this has not been proven by experiment yet.

    Do you ever wonder why you and your friends have so many different skin tones? This is the result of the work of the chromatophores (cells that contain pigment) which are located in the dermis, at the point closest to the epidermis. These cells, which have a number of branches, move in relation to the intensity of the light, and their branches can stretch and shrink back. These movements cause the pigment granules (melanin granules) to disperse within the cell or aggregate towards the center. This is how they can lighten or darken the skin color, causing you to get a “tan.” The seasons, the length of the day and the intensity and duration of the sunlight all affect the movement of these cells. These cells darken your skin color during the summer and lighten it during the winter. But, why is this necessary? This is a wonderful physiologic mechanism that has so many amazing purposes and meanings. I am sure you have noticed that people who live in Northern Europe and North America have a lighter complexion than those who live in the more southerly regions of the earth. This is because the countries in these northern regions are exposed to a less intense sunlight for a shorter time. The further north you go the more rainy and cloudy it is. However, sunlight also plays a very important role in the synthesizing of vitamin D in your body. The molecule known as 7-dehydrocholesterol can be converted into vitamin D only with sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is highly important for calcium absorption and bone metabolism. If you do not have enough exposure to the sun, then vitamin D cannot be produced; this could result in disorders like rickets (most common), as well as several other bone diseases and skeletal complications. However, it is interesting that sunlight is a two-edged sword. Neither too much nor too little sunlight is good for you. Too much exposure to the sunlight damages my health, causing such diseases as skin cancer and eye disorders. Our Lord God Almighty has made all parts of the earth suitable for human life. He knows well, of course, what people need in order to be able to live in places that have less sunlight and in other places that have a great deal of sunlight. In order to allow people to benefit from the sunlight everywhere, He has given the necessary qualities to my chromotaphores and the melanin granules that they contain. In places that have less sunlight, my chromotaphores synthesize less melanin. The melanin disperses throughout the cells or the cells move downwards, and my color lightens. This allows more sun absorption and this sunlight is used for vitamin D production. In sunny places, however, people are more exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun as well as other forms of radiation. This is why the risk of my cells becoming mutant and cancerous is greatly increased. In order to avoid such a situation, more melanin is synthesized in people who live in sunny places. The melanin in the chrotaphores gathers towards the center of the cell and my color darkens. Thus, excess sunlight is absorbed by my melanin pigments thanks to their special structure and function. This prevents other sensitive cells from becoming damaged and cancerous.

    During hot weather, in order to balance your inner body temperature, the blood vessels that pass through the skin expand and more blood is carried through the skin. I give off the water in my blood through my sweat glands. While this warm water called “sweat” spreads over my surface and evaporates, an important amount of heat is released into the air. Thus, your inner body temperature does not increase and you remain cool inside. Thanks to the work of my sweat glands, I can also get rid of some nitrogenous waste and thus support your kidneys. During cold weather, however, the activities of my sweat glands decrease, and this helps you to stay warm. The blood vessels narrow so that the blood in me is reduced. More warm blood is channeled into your body so that your important inner organs do not become cold. The muscles of my hairs contract and the hairs straighten, thickening the layer of hair that covers me. It feels like you are covered with a blanket. If your body temperature falls off significantly, my receptors stimulate the muscles that lie under me and these muscles produce heat by vibrating. That is why you shiver from cold! Women have fewer hairs on their body. Do you think this is unfair? Of course not! Unlike men, women’s bodies are created in such a way that they can store a greater percentage of fat among the tissues under the skin. This hypodermic fatty tissue not only protects women from cold, but it is also used as extra storage for nutrients that they use when breastfeeding. It also helps protect women’s muscles and bones against bumps and shocks from the outside. So, this tissue works both as a temperature isolator and as a “shock absorber.” There is nothing unfair about this. And, it proves that God gives each of His creation exactly what they need and deserve.

    Some people say that the skin is a mirror of the body’s health; this is true. The fact that I am visible and can be examined easily makes me the first organ to display symptoms of many diseases that lie below. Abnormalities that appear on me are usually a sign of metabolism disorders, ulcers and other glandular disorders in the body. For example, if your liver is being affected by a poisonous substance, this shows up as red spots on the hands. But not only physical ailments affect, me; I am also affected by your spiritual condition. Of course, the opposite can happen, too. That is, diseases on the skin can affect your inner organs.

    I have mentioned before that my ability to renew and repair myself is very great. God willing, I can repair mild burns, bruises and cuts easily under normal circumstances. However, if the bruise goes as deep as my basal layer, there might be a scare there to remind you in the future and to give thanks to God for your health. In addition, in diseases like diabetes, my ability to renew and repair myself is weakened and I cannot easily heal. In such cases, you have to take the utmost care to keep me clean so that I do not get infected.

    Well Peter, I think that I have said enough about myself. I will not continue to go on about the many symptoms of diseases that can be seen on me, including, allergies, itchiness, and infections. However, it is important for you to know that I can demonstrate hundreds of different conditions that are caused by a great range of factors, such as genetically transmitted diseases, immune system disorders, and bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. But don’t worry! As you can see, the majority of people live a healthy life despite these risks. The Creator has provided your body with a protective mechanism and has taught you how to take care of yourself. My job here is to indicate the Creator and how He has made me a flawless work of art that demonstrates deep meanings behind its complexity. Rather than continuing to give you a lecture on dermatology, it would be better if you were to live according to God’s consent. If you do so, you will be protected from diseases; even if you do become ill, you will have greater patience and moral strength. You will also be more thankful to God for your health.

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