This paper discusses the chemistry of the human cell. (3 pages; 5 sources; MLA citation style)
The cells of the human body are complex structures that perform the chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. This paper briefly describes cell chemistry.
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A cell has three main components: the cell membrane, the cytoplasm (the substance of the cell—water, salt and “macromolecules”); and the nucleus. The cell membrane is comprised of lipids and proteins; it gives the cell its shape, protects the contents, and “controls what goes in and out of the cell.” (“Inside the Living Cell,” PG). (An indication of the importance of this transmission is the fact that this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Dr Peter Agre and Dr Roderick MacKinnon for their work with the “channels” in cell membranes.) (“Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winners,” PG).
Human cells are really chemical engines; they perform the chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. In this process, there are only six “major players”: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus.
It is carbon that is the major “building block” here because it is a “unique element” that can combine with many other atoms to form strong, stable chemical bonds. It can take many forms, making long chains that double back on each other, for instance; it provides a “skeleton” that other atoms bond to. The gigantic molecules formed when atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and others bond to the carbon skeleton are called “macromolecules”, and lipids and proteins are both macromolecules formed by this process. (“The Chemistry of the Cell,” PG). As we’ve seen, they are found in the cell walls, where they help with the transmission of materials to and from the cell.
Macromolecules are made up of “smaller, repeating submits” that are known as “monomers.” These monomers are always similar in chemical structure, though they are not always identical. (Simple sugar is a monomer.) In a process called “polymerization,” the monomers are joined by a series of chemical reactions. The result of these reactions is the formation of large, complex molecules known as polymers. Lipids are polymers; examples are fats, oils and wax. (“The Chemistry of the Cell,” PG).
Polymerization allows for a tremendous range of chemical diversity in living things, in much the same way that the alphabet, though limited to 26 letters, can create millions of words. Like the alphabet, “monomers can be arranged with an almost endless potential for variety.” (“The Chemistry of the Cell,” PG).
Vitamins are not needed by our bodies to provide energy with the way food does; instead, they serve a variety of functions. Vitamins A and D, for example, are “factors” involved in genetic regulation. (“Vitamins and Minerals,” PG). Vitamins are derived from living material. They are called “co-enzymes”, because they assist enzymes in such tasks as forming blood cells, as well as genetic material, hormones and nervous system. (Roberts, PG).
Minerals perform in much the same way as vitamins; however, they are derived from inorganic substances. “All the complex substances that the body needs to build new and healthy cells are dependent on minerals.” (Roberts, PG). Vitamins and minerals are allowed to pass through the cell membrane to perform their functions.
The human cell is a highly complex structure that can fairly be described as an on-going chemical reaction. The processes that take place at this level are the very procedures necessary to create new cells and repair damaged ones. It is worth paying attention to our diet, since our intake of vitamins and minerals directly affects cellular function, and thus, our health.
“Inside the Living Cell.” Contexo.Info [Web site]. 2002. Accessed: 11 Oct 2003. http://www.contexo.info/DNA_Basics/Cell_Structure.htm
“Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winners 2003-1901.” Nobel Prize Internet Archive [Website]. 1996-2003. Accessed: 11 Oct 2003.
Roberts, Phyllis. “Chemistry and Nutrition, Are You Fit for the Challenge?” [Web page]. Undated. Accessed: 11 Oct 2003. http://www.chatham.edu/PTI/Kitchen_Chem/P.Roberts_01.htm
“The Chemistry of the Cell.” Contexo.Info [Web site]. 2002. Accessed: 11 Oct 2003. http://www.contexo.info/DNA_Basics/_vti_bin/shtml.exe/Cell_Chemistry.htm
“Vitamins and Minerals.” [Web page]. Undated. Accessed: 11 Oct 2003. http://www.chemsoc.org/exemplarchem/entries/2001/caphane/vitamins.html
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