Cells: The Inside Story

One of the main aims of this blog is to communicate science and medicine to you in a manner that is easy to understand. This post therefore specifically aims to introduce the biological cell. We will then build on this post with posts about cancer and its mechanisms.

By definition, a biological cell is a “building block of life”. We as humans are a concoction of more than a trillion cells. Most cells are unseen to the human eye due to their microscopic size. These can be seen with the help of a microscope.

Think of a recipe for your traditional Sunday roast. So let’s say you are to make a roast dinner – what ingredients do you need? Let’s see – potatoes, a whole chicken, some vegetables, maybe some salt, etc. You follow your favourite recipe preparing your ingredients, cooking them, and eventually end up with your entire meal.

The ingredients that you use are the basic building blocks of your roast. Similarly, numerous cells come together to make a final product – YOU.

Now, look at the big picture! Look at all the living things around you? Your cute little dog, that tree you can see from your window, that bird that stole your sandwich, etc. They are all made up of a combination of cells. Since we are made from numerous cells, we are what are known as multicellular organisms.

The combination of cells of a dog, cat, tree, bird, etc. differs from the combination of cells that you possess. This, amongst other factors, is the difference between you, the tree and your dog. Differences within these cells are also what make you look different from your mum and dad.

It should also be noted that there are different types of cells within the body. A doctor, for instance, would never be asked to do the job of an electrician. Similarly, each cell in your body has a specialized function – the heart cells will always ensure that the heart is pumping while the cells in the lungs will enable us to breathe. Once these cells become specialized, they are unable to change their function.

Each cell within our bodies also has its own components, called organelles. These organelles perform various functions within the cell. For example, like us humans – a cell requires a brain, called its nucleus. The nucleus provides the cell with all the instructions that it needs to survive. It instructs the cell to grow, eat, reproduce, etc., much like our brain.

Now that we have looked into the basic building block of life, we will build on this information in a future post on cancer.

Until then, stay tuned.


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