There is so much happening in a cell that it’s a wonder how microscopic the structure actually is! With the advent of modern technology, research into cells has advanced consistently. In this article, we are going to explore what a cell contains and its functions, taking you on a tour of life’s building blocks!
Structure of Cells
Cells have a typical structure consisting of a nucleus, cytoplasm, and plasma membrane. However, cells vary in size, shape and the cell wall depending on the organism they form part of.
The nucleus generally plays a crucial role in the cell as it contains the cell’s genetic material, including DNA which carries information for the entire organism’s growth, reproduction, and other biological processes.
The cytoplasm and organelles
The cell organelles, working together in harmony are responsible for ensuring different functions within the cell such as metabolism, energy generation, and membrane trafficking. For instance, mitochondria provide for the cell’s energy needs while the endoplasmic reticulum produces proteins and lipids.
The Plasma Membrane
The plasma membrane acts as the outermost layer of the cell, separating the cell from the external environment. It’s also responsible for regulating what enters and exits the cell
The cytoskeleton, made up of microtubules and microfilaments, is responsible for maintaining the cell’s shape, allowing the movement of cellular substances within the cell, and providing for the nutrient support systems.
Composition of Life’s Building Blocks
The cell, as the basic unit of life, contains four distinct building blocks. These building blocks include;
Proteins, macromolecules consisting of amino acid chains, perform an array of critical functions within the cell. They include enzyme catalysis, cell signaling, and structural support.
Lipids are cell components larger in size than other molecules but are still involved in essential functions such as serving as structural elements of the plasma membrane, hormone regulators, and molecule transporters.
Carbohydrates are essential in maintaining the structural integrity of cells, interaction with different types of cells, and acting as energy storage mechanisms.
Nucleic acids are the building blocks of DNA and RNA which encode genetic information leading to specific characteristics of a particular organism.
As mentioned earlier, cells are divided into several different organelles, each performing functions vital to a cell’s survival.
Mitochondria are the cell’s energy centers, responsible for producing the ATP molecules that power the cellular systems. Mitochondria are also involved in cell signaling, cellular differentiation, and cell-cycle control.
The Endoplasmic Reticulum
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) primarily takes on two forms, the rough ER, and the smooth ER. The Rough ER manufacture and modify proteins while the smooth ER is responsible for producing lipids and other metabolic processes.
The Golgi Apparatus
The Golgi Apparatus, situated near the nucleus, is responsible for packaging proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids into functional structures known as organelles.
Lysosomes provide for the cell’s ability to break down larger molecules into smaller, more manageable forms by using enzymes for digestion.
Common Cell Types
Let’s have a look at the types of cells that create just about everything in your body.
Bone and Cartilage Cells
There are three types of cells located in the bones and cartilage tissues: Osteocytes, osteoblasts, and osteoclasts; each plays a crucial role in forming and maintaining healthy tissue.
There are three major types of blood cells, including red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes).
Skeletal muscle cells are elongated cells that come together in muscle tissue, enabling large organs to produce mechanical work.
Nerve cells, or neurons, are cells that are responsible for propagating and transmitting signals throughout the body’s nervous system.
Bacterial cells are unicellular organisms that come in different shapes and sizes. However, they are limited in size due to their lack of organelles such as mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum.
Cells are dynamic and complex, containing numerous organelles, and they come in different shapes and sizes that work together to sustain life. We hope this article has been informative in providing an understanding of just what exactly cells are and what they contain.
– Karp, G. (2012). Cell and Molecular Biology: Concepts and Experiments. 7th edn.
– Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, SL., et al. (2000). Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edn.
– The National Library of Medicine: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002158.htm