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Cells R Us


If you were to peer through a

microscope at a thin layer of your
skin, you would see that skin is not
just a solid sheet that covers your
body. Skin is divided into a network
of tiny cells. And its not just your
skin- every part of your body is made
up of cells. Each cell is like a tiny
living thing by itself, and all of your
cells work together to keep your body

intestines have the job of digesting

food, each organelle in the cell has a
specific job to do. And just like your
organs are surrounded by layers of
fat and liquid, the organelles in your
cells are cushioned by a watery gel
called cytoplasm.

If you were a plant, your cell

membrane would be surrounded by a
stiff outer layer, called the cell wall.
Cell walls are tough and flexible and
help plant cells hold their shape. The
cell wall helps give celery its crunch
and dead leaves the ability to
crumble in your hands. Animal cells
dont have cell walls. They rely on
the cell membrane for shape and

Energy Organelles
All of this manufacturing takes
energy. Mitochondria are the
organelles that produce energy.
Mitochondria work like an oil refinery.
Oil has a lot of energy, but it has to
be made into gasoline before it can
power a car. Mitochondria take the
energy from the food you eat and
convert it into a power source that
the other organelles can use.

Manufacturing and Transport

One of the main functions of a cell is
to make proteins; this job falls to the
Cell Structure
ribosomes, which are the cells
The first part of a cell that you might manufacturing plants. After the
notice under a microscope is the cell proteins are made, they are shipped
membrane. This protective covering to wherever they are needed though
has tiny openings, called pores that
a network of tubes called the
let things enter and leave the cell.
endoplasmic reticulum, or ER. If the
Some things, such as water, move in proteins need to be shipped outside
and out of the cell easily. Other
of the cell, they are packaged up for
things, such as most proteins, are
transport in another organelle, the
only allowed in and out when needed. Golgi body.

If you look at your skin thought

a light microscope, it might look like
your cells are mostly empty, but
nothing could be further from the
truth. Powerful electron microscopes
reveal that cells are packed with tiny
parts that are constantly in action.
These parts are called organelles
because they function like organs for
your cells. Just like you heart has the
job of pumping blood and your

Many plant cells can even get energy

right from the source. An organelle in
plant cells, called the chloroplast,
captures energy from sunlight to use
to make sugar. The plant doesnt
need to eat food to fuel its cells. It
simply ships the sugar over to the
mitochondria for processing.
Waste and Storage Organelles
Two other organelles, vacuoles and
lysosomes, help with storage and
waste removal. Vacuoles serve as
storage tanks, holding water or
nutrients until they are needed or
storing waste until the cell is ready to
get rid of it. Lysosomes actually
digest waste. They break down old
cell parts and invading bacteria and
viruses. The cell can sometimes
reuse pieces of this waste after it has
been digested.

Those Weird Bacteria

The organelles discussed above are
common in plant and animal cells and
cells from fungi, such as mushrooms.
Bacteria cells, however, are different.
They are much smaller than other
cells. For example, about 30 of the
bacteria E. coli would fit inside one of
you skin cells.
Bacteria have cell membranes, and
some have cell walls. They use
ribosomes to make protein. But
bacteria cells dont have any
organelles with their own
membranes, like most of the
organelles previously discussed.
They dont even have a nucleus. The
chromosomes in bacteria float loosely
through the cell.

Organisms whose cells have a

nucleus, such as plants and animals,
Organelle in Charge
To are celled eukaryotes, a word that
means true nucleus. Bacteria are
work together smoothly, the
organelles need a director. This is the called prokaryotes, or before nucleus,
because bacteria cells developed
job of the nucleus. The nucleus
contains the chromosomes, which are before eukaryotic cells.
made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or
DNA. Youve probably heard of DNA. Cells all over
Those skin cells you see under the
It gives the instructions for all of the
microscope are just a sampling of the
activities of the cell, including the
trillions of cells that make up your
recipes for making different types of
body. Those cells have a lot in
proteins. The nucleus is surrounded
common with cells from organisms
by its own membrane, the nuclear
around the world. From the tiniest
membrane, which holds all of the
bacteria to the biggest animals and
chromosomes in place.
plants, all living things depend on the
activities of their cells to survive.