What Is Cell Biology?
Cellular Story of the Human Body
Students rarely seem to get excited about cell biology, a class that is typically required for anyone entering into the field of health care. Starting the semester off with a little story about why cell biology is, in fact, a gripping drama may help perk up interest in the cellular world. The story goes as follows:
Article Summary: Think studying cell biology will be boring? Think again! Here is an introduction to cell biology via the cellular drama unfolding in your body.
Why Studying Cell Biology Doesn't Suck
The Cells that Make Up You
Every living thing is made up of biological cells, or at least a single cell. Your body is composed of trillions (i.e. a million million) of cells working hard, 24/7 to keep your body in working order. Each and every one of your cells contains a complete genetic DNA blueprint of 'how to make you' as well as all the cellular machinery required to run the show.
Your Body’s Guests & Interlopers
Your body is also host to other species. 'Good guy' bacteria cooperate with your body to help you digest your food, make Vitamin K and crowd out the bad guys. Demodex mites may be dwelling in your eyelashes as you read this. And ladies, yeast (Candida), a type of eukaryotic microbe, are always lurking, just waiting for an opportunity to cause an uncomfortable yeast infection. Yeast are opportunists that can overpopulate when your normal flora (good guy microbes) gets knocked out of balance, such as when you take antibiotics. These are just a few examples. Your body is like a living planet filled and covered with many many different organisms.
The Immune System: Your Body’s Police Force & Secret Assassins
In addition to your body's own ‘average Joe working cells’ you are internally patrolled by a microscopic police force, the cells and molecules of your immune system. Leukocytes (white blood cells) are cellular cops are constantly on the lookout for bad guys, identifying interlopers and eliminating them. Sometimes pathogens get into your cells and the only way to get rid of them is for the infected cell to be destroyed. It is the job of T-cells, the cellular assassins of the immune system, to convince defective or infected body cells to kill themselves, to self-destruct (apoptosis).
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Bad guy microbes (pathogenic prokaryotes, eukaryotes & viruses) are everywhere. You can't avoid them, and your body's police force is constantly intervening to prevent you from being colonized by pathogens. Skin, sweat and oil (sebum) are elements of your body's external fortress that help prevent pathogens from even getting inside you in the first place.
Your Cells Even Contain Fossils!
The cells of 'planet body' also contain fossils. That's right! Within your DNA are proviruses, the genetic material of viruses that have infected you and those that have infected your ancestors. This viral DNA has been incorporated into your human DNA and passed down from generation to generation. Estimates are that approximately 1/12 of the DNA in each of your cells is viral, fossil viruses not you.
Cell biology is a far cry from boring. It is your very own microscopic drama that is being played out everyday, all day, for as long as you live!
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