What do you think of when you hear the number 37 trillion? The national debt? The number of friends you have on Facebook? Well, what would you say if we told you that you should think of the little things that make you uniquely you. Those little things are called cells.
Oh So Many!
The smallest unit of everything that is living – it’s no wonder cells are considered the building blocks of biology. The human body alone contains a whopping 37.2 TRILLION of them! About two hundred different kinds.
There’s Two Types
What makes a cell Eukaryotic is that it has a nucleus. Animals, plants fungus and even these funny little outcasts called protists are Eukaryotic cells. Bacteria and those odd-ball Archaeans don’t have the super useful command center making them Prokaryotes.
Teamwork is Essential!
Eukaryotic cells are full of different organelles with complex relationships with each other. Each with their own job they come together to create a functioning system. Here’s a look at some of the key players.
Nucleus. It is in charge of the design of every living creature, the nucleus is where DNA is stored. Messengers called RNA molecules leave the nucleus with DNA’s blueprints- with plans to make ribosomes and protein. The Nucleolus in the center is where the Ribosomes are made.
Ribosomes are basically an RNA template with plans from the nucleus sandwiched between Protein and more RNA sort of like a hamburger. DNA plans in stow, these tiny burgers give orders to build proteins around the cell. Some float around, while others attach themselves to the cell wall or endoplasmic reticulum.
Endoplasmic Reticulum. A series of flattened tube like sacs making up around 50% of cells surface. Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum (named after the bumpy appearance ribosomes have given it) specialize in protein production while its smoother counterpart synthesizes lipids (fat).
Golgi Apparatus. Folded membranes In charge of packaging and delivering those lipid and protein bundles is the Golgi Apparatus’s job. Glycosylation enzymes attach sugar to the proteins as it travels through the Apparatus before it leaves the organelle.
Mitochondria. The powerhouse of the cell – the Mitochondria acts as a digestive system that turns nutrition into molecules packed with energy. This process is called cellular respiration. In plant cells, Chloroplasts take the place of Mitochondria and capture light to produce energy in the process called photosynthesis.
Plasma Membrane. Holding everything together, a double layer of lipids separate the cell from the outside world, limiting what goes in and out. Most of the lipids that make up the wall are a double layer structure called a phospholipid bilayer with a hydrophobic (hates water) side facing inward and a hydrophilic end (loves water) facing outward. Both Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cells have membranes and cytoplasm.
Cytoplasm is just what it sounds like, a bag of goo contained by the cell’s membrane. Multiple types of different Molecules and ions fill a water-based gel called cytosol. Protein in the mixture is what gives cytoplasm a jello-like texture. Cytoplasm help keep organelles in place and is home to the facilitation of multiple metabolic reactions.
Cytoskeleton. Imagine not having a skeleton. You would plump to the ground and doing much of anything would be very difficult. Cells are not so different despite the gelatinous blob we tend to think of them as. A network of filaments not only give structure to the cell but it helps hold organelles in place, assists in cell movement and even acts as a microscopic highway for vesicles (transport structures).
Cool Things are Happening!
Cells are the blocks of biology, and biology is the backbone of modern medicine. Because of cell theory, scientists are able to accomplish miraculous things today. Vaccines, treatments, cures for diseases, organ donation, even organ creation and so much more sprung from the study of cells. With the immense diversity and fast growth within the field,
the study of cellular biology has a seemingly limitless offer of both wonderment and possibility.