DON’T ASK WHY- X, M, A, S chemicals found as secret to Rudolph’s nose glow

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
NORTH POLE-Look to the sky on Christmas Eve night, and you won’t be surprised to see a small, red, pinpoint of light gliding across the heavens.

It’s no shock that Rudolph, Santa Claus’s prized reindeer, will take the coveted lead position on the team that flies Claus’s sleigh once again.

In fact, this Christmas will mark Rudolph’s 45th year of heading the sleigh. Unfortunately, it may be one of the last. But thanks to recent arctic technology breakthroughs, a shiny, red nose might continue to lead the sleigh for years to come.

“He’s been leading my sleigh full of toys since that terrible blizzard in 1960,” Claus said.

Claus has run the toy manufacturing and distribution centers at the North Pole for well over a century. He has been using reindeer as his international mode of transportation for all of those years, excluding the one recent year when the elves insisted that the sleigh fly primarily on the fuel of Christmas Cheer.

Unfortunately, this was also the year when a United States-based organization became really uptight about religious equality. The sleigh was not equipped for “winter holiday” fuel, and Claus barely made it back to the North Pole that night.

“But other than that,” Claus said, “every Christmas has gone off without a hitch.

“Except,” he added, “the Christmas of 1960, when we had such a bad snow storm that visibility was nonexistent.”

That holiday season, a massive blizzard blew through the North Pole, making takeoff impossible without the aid of an extremely bright light.

“That’s when Rudolph came in,” Claus said.

Rudolph was born to Donner, one of Claus’s favorite reindeer, in spring 1959. He was a normal and healthy calf, except for his red nose which lit up-usually with an ear-splitting ring.

Although originally masked with a fake nose, Rudolph’s shiny snout was soon found out, and became a handicap for the young reindeer when playing with other youngsters.

After running away to the Island of Misfit Toys to unsuccessfully become an official loner, he returned to the North Pole only shortly before the blizzard hit.

Rudolph achieved worldwide fame in 1962 when the documentary, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” was first aired. Ever since, Rudolph has unofficially gained the title of “the most famous reindeer of all.”

“But my leading reindeer may not be taking off with me in a few Christmases,” Claus said. “This year Rudolph turned 46. With age, the brightness of his nose has started to dim, and Rudolph has begun to think about retirement.”

But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

As sad as Claus is to lose his most valuable reindeer, science-elves have cracked the genetic code that has made Rudolph’s nose shine all these years.

“The way Rudolph’s nose glows is not unlike they way a lightning bug shines,” said Greg Nog, a scientist at North Pole University.

“In a firefly, several chemicals-Luciferin, Luciferase and adenosine troposphere, or ATP-are combined with oxygen,” Nog explained. “When these substances are mixed, a chemical reaction occurs that produces the firefly’s yellow light.”

Luciferin is a basic term for light emitting pigments that are found in organisms capable of giving off light, also known as bioluminescence.

Luciferase is a broad name for an enzyme that is also used for bioluminescence.

Finally, ATP is a nucleotide with high-energy phosphate bonds, and is used in the transportation of energy to cells for biochemical processes.

“In Rudolph’s case,” Nog continued, “a similar process takes place, only with different and extremely rare chemicals.”

Because the four chemicals found in Rudolph’s nose have only been recently discovered, they are yet to be named. The temporary nicknames given to them are X, M, A and S.

Chemical X is very similar to Luciferin and Chemical M also carries the same roll as Luciferase. Chemical A transports the luminous energy from Rudolph’s proboscis cells. But Chemical S is perhaps the greatest discovery of the four.

“We are very excited with the finding of Chemical S,” said Herald Engel, a local chemist. “There is no known chemical in the world that we can compare it to, making it extremely rare and valuable to the scientific community.”

According to Engel, Chemical S consists of many characteristics that were previously classified to be unfeasible in physical form. The chemical has seemingly impossible-maybe even magical-effects.

Once combined with the magnetic forces of the North Pole, chemicals X, M, A and S can produce an illuminant reaction that is controllable by the brain.

But what caused these chemicals to form inside the cells in Rudolph’s nose? Holly Barry, a North Pole geneticist, set out to answer exactly that. What she found was none other than a genetic mutation.

“Meiosis is the formation of egg and sperm cells,” Barry explained. “During Prophase I, the first phase of meiosis, something called ‘crossing over’ occurs.”

“During crossing over, the chromatids of the chromosomes in the cell switch sections. By doing this, the end result of four gametes, or sex cells, all have a different genetic combination, so all offspring will be different.”

Barry went on to explain that during crossing over, the original structure of the chromosome can mutate, causing the offspring to have abnormal features.

However, the kind of mutation in Rudolph’s case is completely different than what is normal. While most mutations involve the rearrangement or deletion of DNA information, completely new information was created.

“Rudolph’s gametes basically made up some of their own genetic information, which caused the later production of the X, M, A and S chemicals,” Barry said. “This has caused Rudolph to have the first Xmas Chromosome.”

With the upcoming retirement of Rudolph and the necessity of a bright nose to shine through foul weather, science-elves are frantically working on a way to make Rudolph’s eccentric nose a normal part of all reindeer.

“We are currently developing a process that will enable us to make any reindeer’s nose glow,” said Jiff Rapt, a genetic therapist.

The procedure of inserting a foreign gene into a body’s cells and tissues is fairly new, and has not been perfected yet.

“Scientists in other parts of the world have developed a process for replacing defective genes with correct ones. This is called ‘gene therapy’,” he said. “We here at the North Pole are working on a completely opposite method which will replace the correct gene with Rudolph’s defective one. Right now, the name we’ve come up for it is ‘gene-gullbell therapy.'”

“I guess you could call it a North Pole-style nose job!” he said with a laugh.

Although the process hasn’t been tested yet, the expected results are that a reindeer’s normal brown nose will eventually, over the course of a few years, change into a red nose that is capable of giving off a decent amount of light, similar to Rudolph’s.

“We are still working on manually duplicating the necessary genes,” Barry said. “We hope to start testing this method of gene-gullbell therapy within the next couple years. A lot of reindeer have already signed up to be trial patients.”

“Everyone is pretty excited about this technological breakthrough,” Claus said. “It is nice knowing that once Rudolph can’t lead the sleigh, I’ll still have a bright nose to show the way.”

* * *

UFO: In December 1998, there were about 600 Christmas tree fires.

Don’t ask why.

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