The Hidden Life of the Cell (BBC, 2012)

During the week of Sept. 23 through Sept. 27 we continued the discussion of the cell–via a film called The Hidden Life of Cells (BBC, 2012). In this film of about 60 minutes, we saw the machinery of a human cell through the narrative of the invasion of a virus:

This film reveals the exquisite machinery of the human cell system from within the inner world of the cell itself – from the frenetic membrane surface that acts as a security system for everything passing in and out of the cell, the dynamic highways that transport cargo across the cell and the remarkable turbines that power the whole cellular world to the amazing nucleus housing DNA and the construction of thousands of different proteins all with unique tasks. The virus intends to commandeer this system to one selfish end: to make more viruses. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.

Watch the film once more, reviewing the concepts discussed with the help of Campbell’s Biology and Modern Biology textbooks. (This film is part of the class discussion).

If you wish to better visualize the story told in this film, click here–a journey to “an inner universe that is beginning to give up its secrets.”

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56 thoughts on “The Hidden Life of the Cell (BBC, 2012)

  1. We all speculate and have studied how virus enter the body and how they reproduce and create one another but like all great biologists, we must ask ourselves the question, “How did virus come to life, what is their origin or where did the first virus come from?”.Even though about their processes and life but we never have never known their true origin and even though we have all all this knowledge of biology we have never known were they really come from. There are some theories but no one knows the truth.
    Here is a site that has some theories or “possibilities” that have tried to answer this question: http://library.thinkquest.org/26802/origin.html and http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=experts-where-did-viruses-come-fr

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    • Viruses are fascinating biological entities. They challenge the very idea of what life is. To study the nature of viruses is to tackle the major themes in biology: reproduction, metabolism, genetics, etc. Here’s an image from Paramecium bursaria chlorera, a virus 190 nm across that infects algae:

      null

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  2. It’s truly dumbfounding how something so small and seemingly invisible to the human eye as a virus could have such a catastrophic result if the right measures are not taken to help the cells fight against these biological entities. I really liked this video because I find it explains complex processes in very simple terms, making the topic a lot easier to understand.

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    • I’m glad it was of help. The beginning of the 21st century is an exciting time for scientists, students, and science teachers–new technologies, such as the ones that made these animations possible, allow to better visualize biochemical events inside the cell.

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  3. Well, this sure was a lot of valuable information! I love how BBC can take topics so complicated such as the complex inside of a cell and a virus’ effect on cells and turn them into fascinating and eye-catching videos everybody will love.

    Now we know how viruses can damage our bodies and how our cells work and function. But, one question still remains: How do bacteria affect our bodies? How do they cause catastrophes? I’ve researched this curiosity I have inside me and found some interesting results. Bacteria, as we know, are unicellular organisms, meaning they ARE cells and can reproduce on their own, unlike viruses, which need a host cell to make more of its own kind and wreak havoc. Still, bacteria follow the virus’ footsteps, since they do enter the cell and later reproduce inside it. But, bacteria don’t use their DNA for the cell to mistakenly translate; bacteria reproduce on their own inside the cell. While they reproduce, they release a type of toxin, called an endotoxin, which damages the cell and causes it to die. Bacteria can also enter the bloodstream which they use as a sort of ‘highway’ to reach other tissues that can be damaged, such as the heart; bacteria entering the bloodstream may also cause serious blood conditions.

    I’ve only written a brief summary of the information that can be found in this article and lecture: http://www.livestrong.com/article/84796-bacteria-infect/
    http://classes.midlandstech.edu/carterp/Courses/bio225/chap15/lecture3.htm

    I recommend you to read more about this exiting topic; it may help you understand further what we may learn in class and embed you a deeper interest in Biology. 🙂

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    • In biological and evolutionary terms, bacteria are very successful organisms. And this success is the result of how they carry out their life processes in efficient ways without a high expenditure of resources–such as food, space, energy, etc. Great links, Arnaldo.

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  4. It is very interesting how BBC gives us a new perspective on the processes that occur every second inside our bodies. This documentary has made the cell operations seem simpler, but at the same time more complex. Reading about this topic is always captivating, but actually being able to observe how the cell works is even more fascinating. For me one of the most amusing procedures that happen inside the cell would be the replication of deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. Many people think that its main goal is to replicate, but it also helps in other functions including: the maintenance and growth of cells, tissues, and body systems. Even though it is a complex and sophisticated process it will always have the same product at the end: a strand that is a perfect match to the original one. Errors may happen in the process, but then again life is not perfect.

    Here is an article about DNA replication:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/01/dna_replication068061.html

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  5. According to Mrs. Diaz, can also be known as the blueprint of life. DNA is read by the ribosomes and transmited through the body in order to complete a task. DNA doesn’t complete everything but it does give the instructions and i believe that it is the most important polymer in the body. I ask myself, what would life be like if DNA were not existent. http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/12/epic-discovery-nasa-discovers-new-non-dna-based-life-form-to-be-annouced-at-2-pm-est.html This link states that Nasa found life that doesn’t need DNA it’s a non DNA life. Since this has trecently been found, i believe that there might be life in space and that we just don’t understand their way of being or how they are even alive.

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    • I totally forgot about that very important discovery. It was—ad still is—a very big deal. Imagine: we discovered an arsenic based life form! Here, on Earth! That means that other elements besides carbon are good candidates for life. Great link, Adriana.

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  6. An inefficient virus kills its host. A clever virus stays with it.
    – James Lovelock
    As I read this quote it reminded me of how much a virus needs its body (like the song said). The mission of the virus is to find cells to help him reproduce and get bigger. If its body or host dies the virus dies as well therefore it has failed, while if the body is alive the virus can continue to reproduce. I find it interesting how something so small and non-living can do so many things. This movie helped me visualize and understand what goes on in our bodies regarding a cell and a virus. Thank you.

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  7. The name of this movie puts in reality what is happening inside of us: a totally secret world impossible to see for the human eye. It really impresses me the artistical way that BBC was able to put what is happening inside our own bodies in a microscopical way so that it catches our eye and becomes more interesting.

    What impresses me the most is the role of the white blood cells, the way they are present when they sense a threat and they start to rise its count. They way they try to defend that same menace from attacking our bodies and how harmful can be if a person has a low white blood cell count.

    It also is pretty impressive how viruses are not even considered living organisms but are capable of causing so much damage. Their only goal is to reproduce, and they do not really care if it is a positive or negative way for the body.

    This video really helped me putting into perspective how the body and the cell really work, I think it was very helpful and I believe that scientists should keep working just to discover ways of fighting this viruses and just to know their real origin.

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    • Life is a chaos mediated by chemistry and chance, but once in a while biochemical events happen in the proper circumstances. And in the case of this video, enough events happened so that the adenovirus could infect a cell. Excellent comment, Frances.

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  8. In the video you posted we can see the life of the cell, how each organelle works alone and in junction with each other. We also see what would happen if a virus came inside. When I watched the video I was so surprised to know that a cell, that is so small we can’t see unless through a microscope, does so many things at once. I also learned the steps in which the virus enters the cell to get to the nucleus to make more cells of that virus. It is very clever when a message is sent to the white blood cells so they can know about the cell containing the virus and go kill it. It is very important to know this stuff because if not we would not know how to kill the virus or other diseases.

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    • “a cell, that is so small we can’t see unless through a microscope, does so many things at once.” You are exactly right: cytological events happen simultaneously. It is important for a Biology student to understand that the life processes inside a cell happen all at the same time; each event some, way or another, related with each other. Take the example of the DNA–nucleus–mRNA–Endoplasmic reticulum–ribosome–Golgi apparatus–vesicle–cell membrane–extracellular matrix, etc.

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  9. When I wathced this video a lot of things surprised me. First, it is incredible how a virus, so small, can affect our body in so huge terms if the cell doesn’t fight against it. Also, it was shocking how the virus tricked the cell to let the virus enter. For me it is also hard to understand how can the virus take so much time to get to the nucleus since the cell is so small but i know we have to be open-minded and have imagination to understand how small the cells are and how much smaller the organelles and the virus is in order to understand that for the virus it is a long way from the cell-membrene to the nucleus. I liked this video because it helped me understand why do we get sick and how are body is fights against viruses.

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  10. It is amazing and incredibly impressive to see and understand the power of the cell. It is hard for me to understand how something so small can be so organized and so productive. I could not believe cells were this perfect, so I researched on cells flaws, and it has none! A cell is PERFECT it has no flaws. Humans for centuries have been trying to imitate the cell creating energy sources like the mitochondria, or a storage place like the as small as the DNA, but we are not even close.

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    • I believe that cells, especially its DNA, make mistakes. Take the example of cancer. Cancer is basically a set of genetic instructions that tells cells to destroy themselves, or to divide in erratic and unpredictable ways, hindering all the important events of life moot. Mutations–which after millions of them we have an apparent result, like evolution–are other examples of cells not being perfect. But in this case, mutations can be a good thing, because enough of them can actually prove to be an advantage for the organisms: from the cell wall of a bacterium, to the vertebrae of giraffes.

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  11. This is a fascinating film that shows the everlasting fight of cells vs. their lifelong enemy: viruses. If we were the size of cells that is more or less what we would see as visitors of the world of cells. I found that when the viruses duplicate inside the nucleus and break it a very amazing adaptation for the virus.
    I found the following link very interesting due to the fact that it talks about a throat virus
    http://jvi.asm.org/content/80/2/975

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    • Remember that this “everlasting fight” is what has driven evolution. The cell has to update its genetic code constantly to be a better fighter; she has never surrendered, and that is why life is possible.

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  12. It is really amazing to view how such small particles in our body fight against what harms the human body. The cell structure is really complex and it must have taken a really long time to fully understand how these microscopic particles function and interact with the human body. It was of really great help to watch the hidden life of the cell with these graphic movie because it helped me understand how the cell really works and fights against the harmful viruses that enter our bodies.

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  13. Viruses are too small to be seen by the naked eye and they can’t multiply on their own, so they have to invade a ‘host’ cell and take over its machinery in order to be able to make more virus particles. Viruses consist of genetic materials (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protective coat of protein. They are capable of latching onto cells and getting inside them. The cells of the mucous membranes, such as those lining the respiratory passages that we breathe through, are particularly open to virus attacks because they are not covered by protective skin. I find this method of learning very rewarding because it helps you see what is being teached in the classroom.

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  14. After watching this video i was amazed at the high complexity and efficiency of the human cell. I was unaware of all the processes that take place inside the human cell. While watching this video i had the chance to think and reflect upon the daily battle the human cell fights with viruses. I found this link on what happens when our body detects viruses which is exactly what the video we saw in class explained. I enjoyed very much doing this research because it fells good to know whats happening in my body.

    Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/22028517

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  15. BBC has created a remarkable film that pursues upon us wonder and astonishment with its eye-catching and chaotic scenery of the “hidden world” inside a cell. I was really amazed at the fact that all these chaotic mechanisms are happening to us right now. Something else I found truly incredible was the virus’s journey towards its survival. The virus depends on its host, therefore it is considered a nonliving organism. A virus needs a host in order to survive because it can only replicate inside the cells of another organism. We should consider a virus as a great example of destruction, since it creates a havoc in this organized and mysterious world inside the cell.
    At the beginning of the film I asked myself: How do viruses enter the cell? As we continued watching the film the answer to my question was resolved. The virus was able to successively enter the cell by disguising itself! By performing such a clever strategy the virus is able to pursue its journey towards the nucleus of the cell.
    Here’s an interesting video that provides a brief explanation of how a flu virus enters our bodies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSgkoldBNkI

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  16. It is very interesting how scientists describe this complex world of the cell in this kind of movie and make it easier for us to understand it. The cell has many functions that are very important for our human body to perform life. It is amazing how such a tiny cell can perform a lot of things at the same time to give energy and life to such a big human body. Thanks to this BBC movie I understood pretty good how our cell works and how a virus enters to the cell. For me, the most impressing part of the movie was when the virus was traveling through the cytoskeleton, it was really impressing seeing that process because that is exactly what happens inside our bodies.

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  17. After seeing this video in class I came to the conclusion that not only is the cell a complex and efficient living thing but it undergoes a continous battle with the viruses that sorround us in our daily lifes. The virus may seem small and harmless but when inside the cell it makes its way to the nucleus to try to destroy the cell and multiply itslef. The virus goes through the cell damaging anything it sees along the way. The link below presents the process of the virus getting into the nucleus of the cell in a more basic way. As you see the video you will observe how DNA is copied and how the virus once it gets into the cell multiplies into more viruses and spreads itself along your body. This video also shows how your inmune system is suppose to protect your body against this flus or other viruses.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpj0emEGShQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DRpj0emEGShQ

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  18. Reseaching this topic gave me a lot of insight into this desctructive thing known as a virus that, otherwise, i would not have had the opportunity to know. Coming up with the results, i found out that viruses are divided into categories by which organism they project themselves on & infect. That is amazing! Scientists really have the utensils and appropiate mindsets to be able to conclude: “This virus can only push itself on plant cells, & this other one can only cause damage on animal cells.”
    Not only this, but knowing what the virus is made of now makes me see why they are so hungry for their host cell; they’re made out of proteins, but not having the appropiate organelles to keep it alive, they have to find somthing else, a cell, that does.
    Conluding this post, i can honestly say that i’m truly fascinated by the nature, one with disastrous outcomes at that, of a virus.

    Link i referred to through much of this post: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cells/virus.html

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  19. The week we were watching this video I was getting sick. It was very interesting to see all the things that were happening inside my cells. It’s incredible how in such a tiny particle can be happening many things. I also had the chance to see how the virus entered\s the cell. In class we were talking about the time it took the virus to get to the nucleus. I can’t understand why it takes so much time since the cell is so little. This was a very attention-grabbing movie.

    I found this other video that shows how the virus enters our body:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/06/01/114075029/flu-attack-how-a-virus-invades-your-body

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  20. Antonio’s question is true and brings alot of curiosity. “Where do viruses keep coming from???” In my opinion, many of these viruses are often “lab generated” or made in labs by scientists in fact there is even proof of this. The true question is “Why do some scientists create these deadly viruses?” This article answers this question. http://m.nbcnews.com/health/should-scientists-create-deadly-viruses-yes-says-bioethicist-1C6436835

    The following article talks about a bird-flu that is an example of these lab generated diesieases.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2077232/Scientist-deliberately-created-Armageddon-bird-flu-virus-lab-says-publish-details.html

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    • You raise a very interesting topic, Paco. Bioethics.

      Yes. Viruses can be manufactured; after all, they are remarkably simple: a few proteins that enclose a nucleic acid. And they are so weird and creepy in their nature, that they can easily be seen as something artificial, something engineered. Again, biologists refer to them as ‘biological entities’. Such is their nature, but…

      Viruses are natural. The mechanisms of evolution have provided the conditions for the molecules of life to be used in dark and lethal ways. We know enough about natural selection, and genetics, and geology, and astrobiology, to assert that viruses have thrived alongside Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes for billions of years. They are made out of basically the same stuff we are made of. So it should not be too far out there to see them as a phenomenon that is very successful at mimicking the mechanics of life.

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  21. I don’t like science very much, but this video changed that. It made science, not just fascinating, but easy to understand. It helped me visualize what is happening in our cells everyday. It also helped me understand the cell better by telling me how organelles in the cell work together.

    After seeing this video I was interested in viruses and how cells fight them, I found this very interesting article about how they might have found the cure for the common cold (It’s an old article). It talks about how they found out that antibodies can enter the cell to fight the virus, in contrast to their previous understanding that antibodies could only defend the cell from the outside.

    Link to the article: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/11November/Pages/common-cold-viruses-fought-in-cells.aspx

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    • “I don’t like science very much, but this video changed that.” —–> This right here is the purpose of this blog.

      Great link, Daniela. The better we understand biochemical events inside of our cells, more breakthroughs will be possible:

      “In the study, researchers found that antibodies that attached themselves to a virus were able to follow it into cells and help to destroy the virus before it started to reproduce. This is in contrast to the previous understanding that antibodies did not enter cells and were only effective at fighting infection before viruses invade cells.”

      These insights will one day increase human life expectancy. Maybe the 21st century will see human beings going over 150 years.

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  22. After seeing this video I understood the human body better. Even more, I learned how our bodies fight the viruses that day after day enter our body. It shocked me that even the smallest thing can harm us so bad. This video also made want to study more about the human body and it’s defense system.

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  23. This was a very interesting video, it is so fascinating to watch all the things that occur in the world of a cell. By reading Francisco’s comment I was curious about the humans defense system. I looked up videos on the immune system and found an interesting pod-cast of Paul Andersen which explains how our body protects itself from invading viruses and bacteria and describes the process of long term immunity.

    Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3M0vU3Dv8E

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  24. It is fascinating to watch so closely how cells interact with viruses. I find that BBC made a great job with this video because we can see with detail the virus trying to enter the cell, i learned a lot from watching this video and I Found it very interesting.

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  25. In the video we see how a virus enters the cell and reproduces itself to be spread to other cells. White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are essential for good health and protection against illness and disease. White blood cells can ingest pathogens and destroy them, produce antibodies to destroy pathogens, and produce antitoxins that neutralise the toxins released by pathogens. The pathogens are not the disease, they are what cause the disease.White blood cells do not eat the pathogens, they ingest them and produce antibodies and antitoxins, which are specialized proteins, to protect the body against this type of pathogen. WBC flow through our bloodstreams and fight against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invades that threaten your health. There are several different types of white blood cells, each with different functions, but they can be put into two main groups:
    1. monocytes
    2. lymphocytes
    3. neutrophils
    4. basophils
    5. eosinophils

    For more information on the characteristics of the types of white blood cells visit:
    http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Encyclopedia/Content.aspx?ContentTypeID=160&ContentID=35

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  26. I never imagined that so many things are happening inside my body. Who knew that so little things could do so much work. I would never think that these particles and things that we barely see were so important for us to go on in life. The video was amazing and I really learned a lot about the hidden life of the cell. I hope that someday I get to know this topic more deeply.

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  27. I never thought that a virus would be much smaller than the actual cell. I thought that it was bigger because it does so much harm! The fact that a thing smaller than the cell “hacks” into the cell and kills it by changing the DNA is amazing! I never thought that such a small thing could do so much harm to a bigger organism. Just imagine a microorganism entering a body and actually taking over your body and ruining it! It is very interesting and its also one of the reasons I’m motivated to study medicine.

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  28. I was interested by one of the comments that asked how bacteria infects cells. I researched on technology and found an interesting article. It was about how 3D printing is now being used in order to further understand bacteria. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin used 3D printing technology to isolate bacteria at a microscopic level. They used lasers to construct protein cages around the bacteria in gelatin.The resulting structures can be of almost any shape or size, and can be moved around in relationship to other structures containing bacterial microcommunities. Thanks to this isolation, scientists have been able to study how specific bacteria may develop and cause infections. This technology can open doors to many new understandings when it comes to diseases.
    http://esciencenews.com/articles/2013/10/08/3.d.printed.microscopic.cages.confine.bacteria.tiny.zoos.study.infections

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  29. While math and science have always been my best subjects during my years in high school, they are so far apart from each other that it’s insane. In math everything is precise, while in science, specially biology, a lot of things are speculations. Scientists are forever hypothesizing and searching for the answers to life.

    I was reading about the origin of viruses since it interested me the fact that their sole purpose is to be at a constant war with cells. Like many other things, including the very origins of the universe, there maybe one or more answers to my question. It’s understandable that scientist still don’t know every one of life’s juicy secrets, and that is why curious me would like to join the search for these. It is one of the main reasons why I want to study science and medicine.

    Here is what I was reading about viruses: http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/the-origins-of-viruses-14398218
    and to summarize, the one that most convince me was that viruses emerged from “mobile genetic elements that gained the ability to move between cells.” And then they turned evil and have since then been plotting to turn animals into virus robots so that they may take over the world… or something. Except viruses don’t have logic reasoning. Wouldn’t THAT be something.

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    • Viruses are perfectly suitable to describe the ultimate villain. They do not care about anything, since they themselves are not alive, they are relentless, ancient, simple yet efficient, and their numbers are staggering. Also, they are masters of disguise; they deceive; they are tricksters and opportunists.

      But we owe our very genetic diversity and evolutionary success to their ‘evil’. In many ways, they remind me of a Buddhist Goddess of destruction, which is also a force that drives development and progress, Kali.

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